Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shut Out Review

Shut Out
by Kody Keplinger

The Short Story
At Lissa's high school the soccer and football teams have an ongoing feud and no one can remember what started it. But when Lissa gets sick of coming in second to her football-playing boyfriend, she decides to end the rivalry for good. She and the other players' girlfriends go on strike - essential putting an end to whatever level of affection had been involved in their relationships. But things don't turn out at all like Lissa expected, as things become more about power than peace. Shut Out is an ambitious retelling but not free from assumptions and stereotypes. It's an excellent discussion book. 3.5/5

Come for the....
I first heard about Lysistrata before my senior year of high school, and thought it was sort of hilarious that wives would use withholding sex as a way to get their husbands to end a war. But looking back on it now, I realize I completely missed all the assumptions a play like that makes about men and women. I think the best parts of Shut Out were when the striking girls got together to talk about societal assumptions about girls and relationships. The idea that there is a socially acceptable range of experience that girls should have, and that it falls somewhere between "more than none" and "less than a lot" felt realistic and honest. I also appreciated that everyone wanted to be "normal" in their relationships, but that no one knew what normal was because most people don't talk about sex or affection honestly.

There is so much in the book that would make for great discussion topics with teens. I liked the idea of the girls having an opportunity to be honest with each other. I don't think that comes up much in real life. I did wish there had been more about why the girls did or didn't do what they did in their relationships, especially considering that some of them weren't happy about it. I also would have liked the book to be a bit more balanced in terms of how physical the girls were - it seemed more than I thought was realistic - but that's just another good point for discussion.

Don't Think About This Too Hard (No, actually think about this)
  • I felt like the ending fit the retelling of Lysistrata, but didn't address all of the issues brought up in the book. The girls did a good job of talking to each other about their feelings or ideas on sex, but it didn't look like they were going to share that with their boyfriends.
  • The strike felt really manipulative to me. Using affection as a means of getting people to do what you want is immature. I know that the book tried to tackle that idea, but it felt like too little, too late for me. And I think there's a lot that could have been done with the idea of girls using affection as a means of power in relationships.
  • The girls also point out stereotypes about girls and sex, but never challenge any of the assumptions or stereotypes about boys. I know you can't tackle everything in one book, but that would have been really interesting if it had been brought up.

The Big Three:
Language: frequent profanity, including the f-word
Sex and Stuff: this book is actually cleaner than I was expecting; discussion of sex and stuff, a couple of descriptive kissing scene
Violence: a kid has a rock thrown at him, a couple of mentions of hazing, but nothing descriptive

Just So You Know
I read an ARC of Shut Out as part of Around The World ARC Tours.


  1. Excellent points Kathy. Sex and teens is such a delicate topic. I agree with you that there were topics that could have used more detail discussions. But like you said it couldn't all be discussed. I just hope that the book will bring attention to young women that its ok to be chaste and that the stereotypes need to stop.
    Thanks for the review. :)

  2. You brought up some good points; it would have been awesome if they had talked to their boyfriends about the realizations they had all come to. In fact, now that you mention it, I really wish they had!

    Anyway, I'm glad you liked it! :)

  3. You brought up some really interesting points and I agree that it seems really manipulative to withhold affection to get what you want.

    The Cait Files

  4. As usual a lovely review with food for thought about the topics in Shut Out.

    I had never even heard of Lysistrata before entering the book blogging world. I can't remember it ever being brought up in school. But I guess the curriculum in Norway and the US will, naturally, vary :)

  5. Very intriguing. I may get this one from the library. I would be interested to see how the end plays out. In high school, most relationships don't last so it really is about discovering yourself through the process. In a marriage using this tactic is a little more devious I think because they (shouldn't) just go find someone else. I think the "withhold to get what you want" method of solving problems is very wrong, but in a high school setting I see potential for a good story, even with the lack of completion in certain areas that you mentioned.

  6. Jen, thanks. I did think it did a good job with a lot of things, and without making it feel like an after-school special. Thanks for your review of this. You and Penelope both reviewed it so well that I decided to read it.

    Penelope, thanks! And thanks for your review of the book, too. It helped me decide to give this one a chance.

    Cait, thanks for sharing. Sometimes I worry I'm taking books too seriously, but that was what I thought while reading it.

  7. Mari, I guess it would. :) It's funny b/c a lot of people in the US have the impression that all of Europe is very liberal. I actually heard about this one in a college class, so I guess that's a little different. But it was a college class for high school students.

    Stephanie, thanks. There are definitely interesting ideas to think about. It's not the super cleanest book, though.