273 pp. Poppy (Little, Brown and Company). 2011
Summary (From the 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.
I’ve been reading mixed reviews on Shut Out, but since I loved The DUFF so much I had high hopes for Keplinger’s second novel. I enjoyed Shut Out, but it’s missing the Wow! factor I was hoping to find.
I want to start on a positive note first–Shut Out has a pretty good message for girls. Yes, this book is about a hookup strike, but the girls end up discussing more than just sex. They have conversations about the double standards and trying to navigate through them. They have conversations about being nervous about having a sexual relationship and how they should be able to discuss that. There are discussions about how no one is being honest with them, as teens, about sex. For instance, Lissa points out multiple times how she wishes her mom was around to give her advice about sex and relationships. I remember back in high school how I would come home with questions for my mom to answer so I could go back and tell my friends what she said. Thankfully I have a mom who was honest with me, and since my friends new that but didn’t feel comfortable asking their moms, I ended up being a go-to person. Fortunately the questions never got too weird or personal, because no matter how close I was with my mom, I didn’t want to ask her too much when I was in high school! I bring this up because I know there are still girls in high school who are feeling lost and confused when it comes to dating, relationships, and sex. I like that Kody Keplinger brings up this issue in Shut Out.
I wasn’t sure how much sex to expect in Shut Out. I was surprised, and a little bit happy, to discover that besides talking about sex, there really aren’t any sex scenes. There are make out scenes, and a couple get on the heavier side of things, but I didn’t feel any of it was over the top. I was actually more upset by how the girls talk about sex. I know teenagers–guys and girls–can be pretty foul when they’re speaking with their friends, but there were times, especially at the beginning of the novel, when I found myself cringing over the flippant use of f-bombs. Normally that doesn’t phase me, but I started to feel like it was included to be shocking, but I’m sure that wasn’t Keplinger’s intention. Maybe I’m getting older, but just because there are teens talking about sex in a scene, doesn’t mean there has to be swearing for it to be believable. For the record, I’m completely okay with characters that swear because I know that’s real life in many cases. In Shut Out, and more in the beginning of the novel than any other part, I just didn’t think it was necessary for Chloe and others to drop f-bombs quite that much.
I predict that Shut Out will be a popular choice with my girls in class. There are more positives than negatives, but I wanted to give a taste of both in my review. At times I found the story dragging, but I’m happy I read it. While Lissa is a character that definitely obsesses over everything, I did find myself liking her and the leader she becomes. Lissa reminds me of Bianca from The DUFF in the sense that they’re both characters of extremes and I’m sure many will either hate her or love her. Shut Out handles issues like sex and relationships, friendships, and letting one’s guard down very well. I’m looking forward to what my students will say once they’ve had a chance to read Keplinger’s second novel.