A SIMON PULSE Guide for Reading
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By Chris Lynch ABOUT THE BOOK
Keir Sarafian declares that he is innocent of raping Gigi Boudakian. But that's not how Gigi sees it. Polluted with alcohol and high on drugs, Keir shows up at a graduation party where Gigi is brooding over her boyfriend's absence. The two leave the party together and wind up in a room all alone on a college campus three hours away. As Keir tells his story, he repeats "the way it looks is not the way it is." But Keir loses credibility as he relates past events of his senior year: a football accident when he crippled another player, acts of vandalism after a football and soccer breakup party, and late night drinking binges with his father. Through it all, Keir dismisses his bad behavior and attempts to convince his readers and himself that he is a good guy. But "good guys don't do bad things," and Keir Sarafian appears disconnected, angry, and in total denial of any of his violent actions. Is he guilty of date rape? Does he live up to the nickname "killer" that he earned on the football field? Can he admit that his father hasn't been good for him? Will he ever accept responsibility for his inexcusable behavior or is he totally deluded? ACTIVITIES BEFORE READING
The media is filled with stories about teenage crime and innocent pranks that turned bad. School violence, date rape, and illegal drug and alcohol use are common behaviors reported, but there are others. Read the newspaper for a week and collect stories that in your mind represent inexcusable behavior on the part of an adolescent. Share the stories with one another, and discuss what might be going on inside the head of the accused.
There are numerous attempts to censor books that young adults read, especially those that deal with sex and violence. Discuss why adults feel so threatened by teenagers' desire to read about these subjects. How might a book help a teenager deal with all that goes on inside and around them? Prepare a convincing remark to a parent who might object to these ideas. DISCUSSION TOPICS
Keir Sarafian, the narrator of the novel, begins his story by saying, "The way it looks is not the way it is." How does this statement set the tone for the entire book? Who is he trying to convince of his innocence? Himself, the reader, or both? How does Keir prove to be an unreliable narrator? At what point in the novel does this become obvious?
When Gigi Boudakian accuses Keir of raping her, he says, "I don't feel like I am guilty. But I sure as hell feel sorry." What is the difference between feeling guilty and feeling sorry? Keir clearly has a crush on Gigi. Discuss whether he feels that "loving" Gigi justifies his behavior. Is there a moment in the book when you feel Keir isn't guilty? Why?
In your opinion, is there any point in the story where you feel Gigi is at fault? Do you ever think the sex was consensual, and if so, why? Explain your position.
How much were the drugs a factor in what happened that night? Do you think they absolve Keir of his responsibility?
Describe Keir's struggle with self-image. Debate whether his self-image changes when he accepts the nickname "killer." How does Gigi perceive a relationship between Keir's nickname and his behavior? Social workers and psychologists who work in prisons often refer to the poor self-image of criminals. How might this be especially true with sex offenders?
After the football accident, Keir says, "I didn't cripple a guy. He got crippled, and I was part of it. The difference is very important." How is this comment devoid of any feeling for the victim? Keir tells his sisters that he isn't going to apologize to the guy because he didn't do anything wrong. Discuss whether an apology would be an admission of guilt. What do Mary and Fran realize about the situation that Keir cannot admit? Keir says, "I hate it when people I love condemn me." Debate whether his sisters are condemning him or trying to help him.
Describe Keir's relationship with his father. How does he contribute to Keir's inexcusable behavior? Explain what Fran means when she tells Keir, "I have to love Ray from a distance. He's not healthy for me. He's not healthy for you." There is only one scene in the novel when Keir calls Ray "Dad." What is the significance of this scene?
Keir really likes being liked, but he doesn't want to be buddies with anyone, because that requires involvement. Discuss whether this unwillingness to become involved contributes to his violent behavior. Do you think Keir would have raped Gigi had he been more involved with her?
Keir declines his father's offer to throw him a graduation party and instead chooses an all-night limo ride. How does the limo ride allow him to celebrate the evening from the outside? How is this consistent with his other behaviors? Describe Keir's arrival at Quarterback Ken's house. How is he playing into his "killer" role at the party?
At the beginning and throughout the novel, Keir refers to himself as a good guy. Why does he need for others to validate his good-guy image? When is this especially evident? Keir looks at the videotape of the soccer breakup party and comments, "I saw a good guy there. The film saw other things, entirely." What is the significance of this scene? Is this an attempt to resolve the reality of the situation? Discuss whether he feels guilty or sorry after viewing the film.
At the end of the book, Keir talks about his "two hearts." What do you think he means by this? Explain your answer.
Chris Lynch raises questions about the athletic culture in high schools. How do coaches and the pressure to win contribute to a "boys will be boys" attitude? In Keir's high school, the underclassmen take blame for the vandalism committed by the senior football and soccer players. Where are the adults when this occurs?
Anger, fear, loneliness, and a feeling of isolation are some of the emotions that Keir experiences. Which of these emotions are the most apparent? Discuss the relationship between anger and fear, and between loneliness and isolation. How does Keir allow his emotions to destroy his life? What advice can you offer a teenager who is on the brink of self-destruction?
What advice might Gigi offer teenage girls about date rape?
At graduation, Keir says, "Everything right now had the feeling of lasts, finishes, of playing out for good, forever." What do you think of Keir's finish? Debate whether he is changed forever.
Discuss whether there is an underground social culture at most high schools. What is the basis of the culture? How tough is it for teenagers who don't belong to the culture? Discuss how such a culture is in conflict with the academic purpose of high school. CULMINATING ACTIVITIES
There are three common predator drugs: Rohypnol, Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate, and Ketamine Hydrochloride. Find out the street names for these drugs, how they affect the body, and how you can protect yourself from these drugs.
Date rape has become so prevalent on college campuses that many institutions conduct seminars for students on the topic. Hold an open discussion forum on date rape. Invite social workers, psychologists, and student services personnel from a nearby college or university to participate in the discussion.