Shut Out

I had read 18-year-old Keplinger’s first novel, The DUFF a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it, so when I heard that she was writing another novel, I was super excited to get my hands on a copy. I picked up Shut Out at the public library and gulped the book down in a couple of nights. It was such a fun book to read! And when I finished the book it just left me with this feeling of accomplishment.

Shut Out is a modern retelling of Aristophanes’, Lysistrata- a Greek tale about a woman, who in an attempt to end a war, convinces the other women to hold a “sex strike” with their husbands. It is one of the earliest accounts of women and sexual relations.

Of course, in Shut Out, it’s a little bit different. At Hamilton High, there’s conflict between the football team and the soccer team and Lissa is tired of it! In an attempt to end the battle, Lissa convinces the soccer players’ girlfriends and football players’ girlfriends (including Lissa) to go on a hook up strike. Except, the girls never expected a new rivalry to be created- Boys vs Girls.

It’s no secret that Kody Keplinger is a feminist and promotes sex positivity, (you can tell that from her first book and her lovely blog) but in this book I think she did an incredible job writing a very active character and getting the message (though there’s certainly more than one) through to her audience. Because what becomes a hook up strike turns into self discovery turns into the girls sharing their feelings turns into the realization that “normal” simply doesn’t exist. We all have things to learn from Lissa and the girls.

“I considered this for a second. She was asking the same questions that had been running through my head for weeks: What’s normal? What’s expected of us?
‘You know,’ I said quietly. ‘I don’t think normal exists.’ ” (pg 154)

This passage shows Lissa discovering that there is no such thing as normal. And what’s expected of us is completely a theoretical perfection that is in no way realistic at all. This is a really, really important theme that I think a lot of girls would enjoy and benefit from.

Kody Keplinger is a really fantastic writer too. I have hardly read any better characters than Kody Keplinger’s! You really do feel as though you know the characters personally and can guess what they would do in a situation. Plus, Chloe, Lissa’s best friend, could have easily been a really obnoxious character, but Keplinger wrote her in a way that was just annoying enough to work. Completely spot on!

“ ‘Hell if I know. I stopped reading emails weeks ago. I just do what you tell me to do, since I had to drive you around anyway.’
I rolled my eyes and checked the calendar I’d set up on my email server. ‘Well, you’re driving me to Ellen’s tomorrow night then.’ I clicked the button to shut down my computer. ‘I have to go or I’ll never get this homework done.’
‘Whoa, you still do homework?’ Chloe asked. ‘Why? We’re seniors. You’ve already taken your SATs. Why bother?’
I laughed. ‘Good night, Chloe.’ And I hung up the phone.” (page 232- 233)

I think that this passage really shows how realistic the characters and their relationships with each other are.
There were definitely a few unexpected plot twists throughout the book. I never expected (spoiler!)Lissa to crack a bit on her own policies, but I had to remind myself (just as Lissa had to) that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. So it wouldn’t be natural if Lissa was perfect and never broke any rules. I also didn’t anticipate the ending. I guess I had thought that in the end Lissa would (spoiler!) succeed, but in a different way then what actually happened in the end of this book. Maybe I should have read Lysistrata first? 😉
There are definitely a few similarities between Shut Out and Kody Keplinger’s first novel, The DUFF. They share a common theme of self acceptance which I love. However, I do think that between Keplinger’s two novels, I prefer Shut Out just because I think the plot line is more intricate and tangled. I also thought that overall, the book was just a bit more well written and fun to read. I found myself often rooting for Lissa and the girls, where as in The DUFF, I didn’t even care for the main character, Bianca, much. One cool connection between these novels though, is that they are set in the same place in the same high school. So occasionally I would find things mentioned in The DUFF throughout Shut Out.
Some of my favorite parts in this book were the sleep overs. All of the soccer girlfriends and the football girlfriends (and Lissa of course!) would all have these ginormous sleep overs that were so funny! The girls definitely reminded me of a few crazy slumber parties that I’ve attended.
“Ellen’s room sent me back to a time before all of this. Before the strike, before Randy, before the stupid rivalry began interfering with our lives.  Sitting cross-legged on Ellen’s floor, flipping through one of her fashion magazines, made me feel thirteen again. It felt good. Simple.” (page 234)
Lissa also learns a lot about relationships throughout the book. A little bit after the hook up strike begins, Lissa finds her football player boyfriend, Randy, cheating on her.  She realizes that if Randy didn’t like her for who she is, then he’s really not worth it at all. No one needs a man to complete them.
As I began to say earlier, I think Shut Out is aimed for an older Young Adult audience (basically not 10 year olds), but I think that a lot of girls would enjoy it and be able to benefit from the messages in the book. The themes in Shut Out are real problems that a lot of girls in our society today, really struggle with.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun contemporary novel with witty humor, silly sleep overs, girl’s empowerment, or a modern retelling of an old greek tale. (from 411 BC!)
— Meredith, age 14
About the Author:
Title: Shut Out
Author: Kody Keplinger
Date Released: 09/2011
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