Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Shut Out
by Kody Keplinger
September 5, 2011

Borrowed from Library
Amazon link
Goodreads page
Grade: B+

Synopsis (from publisher): Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Inspired by Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance,
rivalry and sexuality.

If Kody Keplinger wasn’t such a good writer, I’d kind of hate her for writing so well and being so young!  It’s a conundrum, I know.  But I loved The Duff, and Shut Out was definitely a worthy second novel.  There are few authors - YA or otherwise - who write as frankly about sex and what teenagers go through with regards to it as Kody, and I think it’s something that should be written - and talked about! - more. 

One of my favourite series of scenes in Shut Out involved the girls taking turns to host sleepovers to keep the morale up during the strike. Different girls kept coming up to Lissa and confessing - they were a virgin or didn’t really like sex but they couldn’t say it to the group as a whole because they were worried about judgment.  Some of the scenes during the sleepover struck me as a little bit preachy as the girls banded together and claimed girl power, but these really spoke to how I remember my worries about sex and having it when I was a teenager.  Everyone’s supposed to love sex.  It’s supposed to be this great thing...but sometimes it isn’t, and who do you blame but yourself if you don’t have friends to talk to?

Which is pretty much the theme of the book, and it was one that rang true to me.

Lissa was a likeable heroine who I desperately wanted to get into therapy.  Her obsessions and control issues were obviously disrupting her life and while Cash (the love interest) brushed them off as “part of her,” I really, really want to imagine her going to see a therapist and working out some of these reactions to her mom’s death.  Counting every second to try to relax is a coping mechanism, sure, but it’s not the best one.

Other than that, I really enjoyed her perspective on school, the rivalries, and everything.  Her relationship with Randy, the school’s quarterback was difficult to read about, but again it rang true and watching Lissa as she grew to like herself enough to not want to be treated badly by Randy was a pleasure. 

The supporting cast of girls seemed to be mostly a collection of teen movie stereotypes - this one’s a virgin, that one loves sex, that one’s a bitch because she doesn’t know how not to be - but if they were mostly one-dimensional, they were very charming stereotypes, and I couldn’t help but root for them and enjoy their scenes.

Which brings me, of course, to the hilariously named Cash Sterling.  First off, I was so very glad Kody hung a lampshade on his romance novelesque name because otherwise it would’ve been just too cheesy, but wow, he was very nearly too perfect.  Who wouldn’t want a boy who not only plays soccer midfield but also works at the library and wants to discuss Greek poetry with you?  He reminded me in many ways - all good - of a Sarah Dessen love interest, and I’m not going to even try to pretend I didn’t fall in love with him a little bit.

I didn’t love Shut Out as much as I did The Duff, but it was a really good read all the same.  I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for a contemporary YA read that’s a little more frank about sex and how it affects both girls and guys than your average YA book.  And, of course, a thoughtful and likeable heroine (who really needs therapy) and a swoon-worthy love interest.

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