Our current set of 8 by Eight books focus on teen relationship violence. Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable (Simon & Schuster, $9.99) is an important contribution because it is narrated from the male perspective. Keir insists that he is a “good guy”. He systematically explains how the situation evolved, the events that led up to Gigi’s accusations against him, and why she can’t possibly be right about what she says he’s done. Keir’s misunderstandings and refusal to recognize the bias of his own perspective are evident from the first sentence: “The way it looks is not the way it is”. As much as Keir tries to convince the reader of his innocence and justify his position, the evidence that he himself proclaims is carefully stacked against him. It’s hard to empathize with Keir at all, but I don’t think we’re meant to. Instead, Lynch’s story reminds us to carefully and critically examine the very essence of who we know we are. Because what we know isn’t always what is.
In Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, the story is narrated by Liz, sister of the accused and best friend of the accuser. Liz is a photographer and therefore knows that, when taking pictures, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Unlike Keir, she also understands that perspective is everything and that there is often an enormous gap between what is and what we want to be. Written in free verse, there is a lot of open space within the narrative and on the page for readers to fill in the story, allowing for a range of possible interpretations.
Both authors provide opportunities for debate and Inexcusable contains a Reading Group Guide. Furthermore, both books have enough respect for the difficult nature of the topic to refrain from imposing superficial endings. Neither book offers answers; both ask a lot of important questions.