At twenty years old with two published novels under her belt, author Kody Keplinger may be young, but she already has a strong grasp on writing. SHUT OUT is her sophomore release, and already much more sophisticated it terms of character development than debut novel THE DUFF, which she wrote and sold when she was seventeen years old. What intrigued me most about SHUT OUT (besides that fierce cover!) was the fact that it was based on a Greek play, LYSISTRATA. I’d never heard of the play before, but didn’t need to when reading because main character Lissa hadn’t, either. Readers will be introduced to the play when hunky male lead Cash introduces it to Lissa. It was fun to know that SHUT OUT was based on something going into the novel, though, and I’m thrilled that Keplinger chose a lesser-known title to renovate in today’s world instead of a new version of something that’s been done before. Granted, it sounds like her next novel, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTMARE (2012), might be a rebooted Shakespeare telling, but you know what? I enjoyed SHUT OUT to the extent that I’d read another book by her (even though I read THE DUFF after reading SHUT OUT and wasn’t as captivated. After all, a writer can only get better, right?).
Let’s start out with the basics: SHUT OUT is not for everyone. This book deals with sex and there’s a lot of cursing being thrown around. This will turn off some readers immediately; if you’re one of them, you can walk away from this review right now and I won’t be offended. Anyone who knows the play LYSISTRATA and realizes that SHUT OUT is a modern day retelling should automatically realize that such taboo topics lie at the heart of this novel. The play revolves around the women of Sparta and Athens withholding sexual favors from their husbands in order to bring about the end of the Peloponnesian War. I know what you’re thinking: Okay, wait, back up a second: This is a teen book? The topic seems way too adult! And that’s true. SHUT OUT is definitely for mature teens and adults. But teens have sex, too. That’s a fact of life. One of the nice things about SHUT OUT is that it doesn’t idealize sex. It shows teens making bad decisions: Some of them regret the things they’ve done, others hold on to their beliefs, and most of them feel that they’re “weird” or “different” when it comes to certain things. Keplinger looks at things from peer pressure to what’s right for an individual, taking a sophisticated look at a topic that gives teens more choices than today’s standard “Everyone else is doing it, so I might as well just get it over with, too.” There’s so much more at play, which is part of SHUT OUT’s heart.
The novel takes place at a high school where there’s a bitter school rivalry not with another school, but within its own football and soccer teams. For some reason, the two teams HATE one another. What once started out as practical jokes has grown to a point where players are now getting injured trying to one up one another. Lissa is the main character, and as the story unfolds, has been dating football player Randy long enough to get annoyed whenever he places the team and this stupid rivalry before her. When he assists in causing a serious injury to a soccer player, she decides that enough is enough and brings together the girlfriends of all the football and soccer players. The girls realize that when the guys don’t have their heads in their game, they’re focused on their other heads and the only way to bring them back to reality is to cut off the goods. Sex is now taboo. If a girl is in a relationship that doesn’t go beyond kissing, then kissing is cut off. Everyone scales back on the affections they once took part in, which leads the guys to retaliate. Lissa becomes so wrapped up in ending the rivalry and keeping everyone from lapsing that she doesn’t even realize that she’s slowly falling head over heels for Cash, the captain of the soccer team and the one in charge of the retaliation.
I loved the characterization in this novel. Lissa felt very real, and as the novel progressed, she evolved and deepened as a character. Her boyfriend Randy puts her through a lot of intense situations, and I was really happy when they broke up (though at the time, my heart broke for her due to how this occurred). I loved, loved, LOVED Cash, and was so happy whenever Lissa was in a scene with him. He was such a good guy and just what Lissa needed after being with an idiot like Randy for so long. Cash’s backstory is also thoroughly explored and makes a reader yearn in the same way Stephanie Perkins did when exploring Étienne and the workings of his mind when writing ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Just like with ANNA, SHUT OUT is a contemporary novel that I liked more than I thought I would and I found myself flipping back to certain passages because they just sat with me after the book’s conclusion. While outwardly light and fun, SHUT OUT does encounter serious topics that aren’t outwardly visible to the naked eye.
Um, I LOVE this cover. It’s FIERCE! This cover is what made me first take notice of SHUT OUT. Otherwise, I never would have even read the back of it because I’d never been interested in reading her debut novel THE DUFF. But this cover! It fits in so well with the story’s synopsis, too. The girl on the cover is geared up for war, both on the field and off. I love the black paint beneath her eyes and the way the subtitles appear there. The title, SHUT OUT, is bright pink and jumps out at you from the shelves. This cover screams, “Buy me, buy me!” and I couldn’t resist checking it out, even though I didn’t think it was a book I’d love. I’m so glad I was proven wrong!
And now, a special treat!!!
Here is SHUT OUT’s official trailer:
But wait, there’s more!!!
Kody Keplinger is celebrating SHUT OUT’s birthday with a power-packed giveaway!
You could win a signed copy of SHUT OUT, a signed copy of THE DUFF, a SHUT OUT gym bag, various other ARCs of upcoming releases, and some SHUT OUT themed goodies! All you have to do is share SHUT OUT’s trailer and fill out the form on Kody’s Facebook account by September 10th. Pretty simple, huh? Good luck and let the book rivalries begin…!