Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.
The Plot: Keir is a good kid. So he has no idea how he got in this position; basically, a girl accusing him of rape. Rape! Keir know that is inexcusable, something he would never, ever do.
The Good: Sorry, this must be done with spoilers. So if you don't want them, go elsewhere. This is one of my reviews that meanders more into a discussion of the book, spoilers and all.
La, la, la. Spoilers, and I mean it!
Am I giving you enough warning?
This is not "a boy unfairly accused book," except in Keir's own warped version of how the the world works and his place in the world. (And sadly many people buy what Keir is selling.)
In Keir, Lynch has captured a true criminal: "It's not me" "It's not my fault" to the point where some readers may be shocked when they realize that Keir is not innocent. And that point, it suddenly clicks that Keir hasn't been honest about what happened with the football team, and the soccer players, and a few other things. Other readers may realize all along that Keir is unreliable, knowingly and unknowingly.
Oh, another thing I like? While Keir has issues (more below), he doesn't have self-esteem issues. He is full of esteem. Having Keir feel better about himself; the last thing he needs. What Keir needs is to start taking responsibility for his actions and feeling bad about the things he has done.
Part of the reason Keir is always convinced that he never does anything wrong; is he always has a story: it's other kids, it's the circumstances, it's things got out of hand, it's her fault, it's never, ever his fault. As you read, ask yourself: and what point did you know Keir was just giving you excuses? Avoiding responsibility?
Keir's scares the hell out of me; because he is so sure he is never wrong, so able to convince others of his innocence.
I admire Lynch because he doesn't excuse Keir's behavior with "whys", it just "is." I'm a bit tired of books that give excuses for abusive behavior, including sexual assault; so it's refreshing that, even tho yes, Keir's Daddy is a functioning drunk, and Keir drinks and does drugs, that the book never makes Keir's actions excusable.
It's also interesting to see how twisted Keir is; what does he think love is?
I like how the truths of Keir's life, including the truth about his relationship with his father and his sisters, come clear to the reader, yet never to Keir. Keir does not grow or change or realize he did anything wrong; rather, the reader learns, learns how to recognize a manipulative liar.
Here's Keir on control: They could see my car, see my power, see my cool, while I could stay in shadow. Sweet.
I have never cared less for a main character, yet at the same time liked a book. This is a chilling portrait of a criminal who may never be locked up; the reader sees him without his excuses, and knows what he is, but Keir never realizes it.