By: Kody Keplinger
Release Date: September 5, 2011
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary
Source: ARC from Around the World Tours
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.
Shut Out is a modern retelling of the Greek play Lysistrata, which is the story of a group of women who decide to withhold sex from their husbands as an incentive to end a war. I’d never heard of Lysistrata before reading Shut Out, and it’s such an interesting idea to me. Sex is undeniably a very powerful and influential tool in our society and I was intrigued to see what Keplinger would do with the storyline in a modern high school context.
I thought Lissa was a little annoying when we first meet her at the start of the novel. She’s understandably frustrated with Randy, but she feels like an overbearing parent in the way she communicates with him, and she’s generally very naïve about him throughout the course of the story.
Things really get interesting when the boys start fighting back against the sex strike, and that’s when I found myself really enjoying it. I love Cash, the leader of the boys, and his interactions with Lissa are great. Despite leading the guys against her, he is a total sweetheart, and I found myself torn between wanting Lissa to stick to her guns and lead the girls to victory, and wishing she would just give in to her awesome chemistry with Cash.
I also really loved the strong female friendships that Lissa developed with the other girls participating in the strike, particularly Chloe and Ellen. So many YA novels are focused so intensely on the romance aspect, so I’m always happy to find good friendship networks along with the swoony guy and fun romance.
The main issue that I had with Shut Out was the way it handled the girls’ discussions and revelations about sex, which is unfortunate since that was such a huge focus of the novel. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important to talk about these things, and I think the overall message was good, but there’s an art to doing it subtly and tastefully, and I felt like I was just being hit over the head with it. The girls’ conversations (and Lissa’s inner monologues) were incredibly forced and ended up feeling preachy and obvious instead of natural. It was enough to make me roll my eyes while reading.
Though somewhat disappointed, I did enjoy the novel overall, and I’m interested to try another of Keplinger’s stories, especially since I’ve heard good things about The DUFF. I’d recommend Shut Out if you’re looking for a light, contemporary romantic read and you don’t mind a slightly heavy-handed message along with it.