Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Shut Out

Kody Keplinger
Contemporary Young Adult
273 pages
Available Now
Received at BEA

Lissa really enjoys spending time with her quarterback boyfriend. That is until they're continually interrupted by pranks conducted by members of the soccer team, a ridiculous perpetuation of a long time feud at their high school. When Lissa finds herself abandoned yet again in favor of payback against the soccer players, she comes up with a plan.

Along with the girlfriends of the other football players and some of the soccer players as well, Lissa institutes a sex strike set to last until the boys can resolve their differences and end the rivalry not one of them can even remember the reason for starting. Everything seems to be going according to plan until Cash.

Cash who was there for her when she and her boyfriend broke up the first time. Cash who took the time to make her feel wanted. Cash who then never called her again when he knew she wanted him to. He takes over as the leader for the guys, and soon Lissa finds herself caught up more drama than she anticipated, learning what was supposed to be simple is anything but.

Shut Out is a highly entertaining second novel from Ms. Keplinger, one that illustrates yet again her talent for being frank and straightforward when dealing with teens and sex without ever glorifying it or protectively covering our eyes as though we can’t handle the reality she’s presenting. Her approach is upfront yet never shoved in our faces, and we can’t help but appreciate that she doesn’t feel it necessary to tiptoe around the issue simply because the target audience is teenagers. In the same vein, she refuses to use the excuse of “being honest” to portray the relationships in a crass or graphic manner, keeping things real while still being appropriate. With Shut Out, we see a variety of reactions to sex and intimacy, both physical and emotional, and at no point is one character’s thoughts on the subject touted as the “ideal” one. Each young woman who takes part in the strike has a different reaction to and level of comfort with sex, and we have the pleasure of reading as all of them learn their individual feelings are neither right nor wrong, but are simply perfect for them and who they are.

Lissa is an enjoyable protagonist, someone who doesn’t stand out in our minds as spectacularly memorable but who has equal parts strength and vulnerability which makes her more than black type on a page. She finds herself the unintentional leader of a group of teenage girls, and just when her behavior with regard to the strike starts to become worrisome, she shakes herself loose and manages to escape the dramatic frenzy she’s worked herself into to return to the more adorably reluctant figurehead we met initially. She walks right up to the line between drama and melodrama and hovers precariously, but ultimately she never completely crosses it, allowing us to see her flaws as realistic as opposed to annoying.

Perhaps the most interesting character is best friend and resident “slut” Chloe, a young woman who neither apologizes nor makes excuses for who she is, but rather owns all the pieces of herself with pride despite the ridicule and negativity directed her way as a result. She’s honest with everyone around her (bluntly so), but more importantly she’s honest with herself in a way that makes us take a moment of introspection as we evaluate the way we see ourselves. It’s her confidence that–while inspiring petty jealousies and snide remarks in the beginning–gives the other girls the strength to admit things they never before would have, thus paving the way for all the girls to take positive steps forward. The reasons Chloe gives for engaging in more casual sexual relationships may be frowned upon by many a reader, but her self-acceptance is something admirable, especially her ability to let the rumors and nastiness roll off her while maintaining a positive opinion of the woman she sees in the mirror.

Though not quite as emotionally intense or raw as The DUFF, Shut Out is a fun addition to Ms. Keplinger’s resume, and ultimately has us greatly looking forward to whatever she’ll come up with next.

Rating: 4/5


  1. Ooohhhhhhh, Jenny!!! I remember seeing this one around a while back but I never really payed any attention to it until now -- it actually sounds really interesting!! :)

    I'm glad that Lissa was flawed without being annoying LOL because those are my favourite kinds of characters. And you also have me intrigued about Chelsea! I think that characters like her are usually more interesting too because they're blunt and confident and fun to read about! :)

    Awesome review as always, Jenny! <3 I just added Shut Out to me TBR list! ;)

  2. This sounds like a really fun read I've had it on my wishlist forever! I thought this was her first novel and The Duff her 2nd though. Good to know! Glad you enjoyed it and the characters sounds really well written and connectable - which to me is very important to be able to get into a book.

    Xpresso Reads

  3. Great review Jenny..:) Ive avoided this author due to the fact that I get so grrrr about sex in YA books. But I have heard many good things about her writing style in general. My babys name is Chloe so I might not be able to read this one

  4. I read quite of not so glowing reviews on this one and decided to pass it up. I couldn't take the plot seriously though since the original plot was to prevent the men to go to war instead of what it seems to be "stop playing sports and ignoring me". I do admire the author for tackling teen sexuality head on, but I don't think it's the right book for me. Glad you enjoyed it though, Jenny.

  5. I've read a lot of great things about this one, and I really want to read it. Great review!

  6. I've been wanting to read this book for some time, now. I wanted to read The Duff, too, but sometimes the things I want and the things that happen just don't mesh. I think I'm going to get this one, though. I've only heard good things about it and the fact that you really liked it, bodes well for me! Also, sorry for my sucky commenting. I've been taking a small blogging break for my sanity. *hugs*

  7. Mimi - It was just a fun read for me, it broke up some of the darker and more serious YA books I'd been reading:)

    Giselle - Characters are always the most important for me as well, and while Lissa wasn't crazy memorable, she was still easy to relate to and that was enough for me:)

    Tina - It's definitely sex heavy, and like I said some of the girls reasons for having sex are debatable, but I just like how Kody deals with the topic in general.

    Rummanah - It's definitely not a book for everyone. I went in just wanting a fun read and that's what I got. I didn't take it too seriously and that made it all the more enjoyable:)

    Jennifer - I enjoyed it!

    Jen - I wrote you an email:)

  8. That's a shame that it's not quite as intense as The DUFF - sounds like it have the potential to be. I really do love how Keplinger writes about sex in high school without shame - she makes it feel like teens are making personal choices, rather than being 'bad'.

    Great review, Jenny - I wasn't sure about picking up this one with the sportsy cover, but it sounds like a fun read.

  9. I haven't read anything by this author yet. Perhaps I should fix that.

  10. I haven't read Keplinger's books yet but they're in my TBR pile. I like that she handles issues like sex realistically, and I think Chloe as a character would interest me too because it's hard to be proud and accepting of yourself when people degrade you. Great review, Jenny!

  11. Linds - It's definitely not The DUFF, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. I like how she writes about sex, it's never glorified but nor is it a fade to black type situation.

    Amanda - I really like her!

    Zahida - She definitely does. But at the same time, she doesn't say "hey, I'm just being realistic" and use it as an excuse to push the envelope in YA, and I like that about her:)

  12. I keep hearing good things about this one, and Duff...I just do not know. Honestly they way they act, none of the kids at my HS where anything like that

  13. I really enjoyed Shut Out! Like you, I was really impressed by Chloe, and how Keplinger positively portrayed female sexuality. Yay for girl power! :)

  14. I am not sure how I feel about this one. I want to like it, but it seems to edgy. I might check out The Duff instead, since everyone is saying they liked it a bit better. Thanks for the great review!

  15. I have to admit... I wasn't interested in this one until the reviews started coming out. Now I'm even more curious with your review. *sigh* Yes, it is going to go on the wishlist. Stop twisting my arm! ;D

  16. Blodeuedd - Mine either, at least that I knew of, but I have fun reading about them anyway:)

    Lauren - Chloe was my favorite, I liked how nothing phased her even if I didn't agree with her reasons for sleeping around.

    Christina - It's definitely edgy, but it's much lighter than The DUFF and just one of those quick reads.

    Melissa - *twist, twist*

  17. I agree! I really enjoyed this one and am glad you did too!

  18. I'm still surprised by how much I loved The DUFF. So what the heck has taken me so long to try Shut Out? I like the sound of Chloe. Her outlook takes the kind of confidence I've always envied.

  19. Dude, I loved this book. The cleverness of the girls really held to the book. I love the way the girls thought things and how they worked stuff out. Plus it was good to see the guys suffer.

  20. I first picked this up because I heard it compared to a classical play (I'm studying classics at university) and I was curious, and having seen a couple of positive reviews and looked at it a few times, I really want to read this soon!
    Thanks for sharing :)


  21. I'm a big fan of The Duff so I can't wait to read Kody Keplinger's follow up.

  22. I'd put this on my wish list a while back. SOunds like I really do need to get on this one -- I love a character who's unapologetic about who she is, like Chloe. Teens are so quick to call each other "slut" and good for Chloe for just being herself.

  23. Sounds great. I need to read Kody's books. I like the fact that the doesn't necessarily glorify or demonize sex. That she presents it from numerous points of view. That's different than other authors.

  24. Hi Jenny! Great review. Is Chloe like a younger version of Samantha from Sex & the City? My mother claims that hypersexual women like her don't exist but I think they do.

    I'm participating in a launch party for a paranormal YA book--Embrace by Cherie Colyer--on my blog today if you want to check it out.

    BTW, loving Rhage!

  25. I almost bought this the other day. Now, thanks to you, I've just ordered this and The DUFF which I was purposely avoiding. As usual, great review.

  26. I perfectly agree with you here! I really enjoyed it, but it wasn't as mind blowing as THE DUFF. However, I just love Kody Keplinger's style and characters and I'm excited for her next book!

  27. "In the same vein, she refuses to use the excuse of “being honest” to portray the relationships in a crass or graphic manner, keeping things real while still being appropriate."

    This was one of the reasons I enjoyed DUFF. Keplinger is frank and honest, never getting melodramatic or crass, just honest.

    I'm always interested in re-imaginings of old stories, and it sounds like this one will be entertaining.

  28. The girl on that cover looks just like what's her name from Lord of the Rings!

    I don't know that this is up my alley to read but I do like that Keplinger is willing to take on the hard stuff of teenage years!

  29. After seeing so many less than stellar reviews, I'm glad to see a good review of Shut Out. I loved The DUFF and I fell in love with Keplinger's writing. I was hoping this one was as good. I'll settle for almost. Thanks for the great review!


  30. I have THE DUFF on my tbr shelf. I'm not really much of a contemporary YA reader, but I am interested in eventually reading Ms. Keplinger's books. The girl on the cover of SHUT OUT reminds me of Liv Tyler.

  31. Interesting. I'm really responding well to the author's take on sex, as you describe it. It doesn't sound preachy or stereotypical, which is ideal. I really want to read either The Duff or Shut Out now. I think I'll try to include it as part of the 2012 contemp challenge I will hopefully take part in. Thanks Jenny!

  32. I love your review for this book! It's definitely been on my wish list for a while now. I can't wait to check it out! Thanks for sharing your review for the book!