Review: Shut Out
Frustrated with the rivalry between her high school’s soccer and football teams, Lissa organizes the athletes’ girlfriends together in a sex strike. The strike, though, becomes more than a means to an end, as both the guys and girls learn about themselves and their relationships.
As with her previous novel, The Duff, Kody Keplinger brings sexuality out into the open in a way that is both honest and refreshing. When the girls band together against the guys, they discuss their sex lives frankly, discovering that what they think is abnormal about their own fears and desires may not be so unusual after all. Thus far, sexuality and feminism seem to be Keplinger’s trademark topics, and she certainly excels at portraying many facets of these issues in a way that feels comfortable and not preachy. Her voice and stance are clear and consistent, and her writing only seems to be getting better with time.
While Keplinger does many things well in Shut Out, there were still some moments that made me cringe. The novel feels overly simplistic and repetitive at times, with direct references to the book’s inspiration (Lysistrata) hitting you over the head a bit to make sure you get the allusions. Similarly, characters’ motivations and behaviors are always carefully spelled out in dialogue, ensuring that readers don’t have to push themselves too much to actually infer anything; I would have liked to see more left to the reader’s imagination. Tidbits of conversation between the girls come across as feminist manifesto–that’s not to say that the points made aren’t valid or important, only that they don’t always feel quite like the sort of authentic dialogue that might actually occur at a slumber party.
Despite any hangups I may have had with it, I admit that Shut Out was compulsively readable and a notable step up from Keplinger’s first novel. It’s certainly a book that I could see being passed around in high school, and one that might serve as a springboard for a lot of valuable discussions.