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7 Jun 2013

Book Review - Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

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

Then 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. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...

You can always expect an honest exploration of teenage sexuality in Keplinger's books, mainly for females and I do appreciate that bravery and honesty.  In Shut Out Keplinger deals with the idea of what's 'normal' in female sexuality, that's it's fine to have had sex and not to have sex.  YA books can be criticised for including sexuality.  People will always protest the idea of teens having sex so I like to see a book that shows how girls feel about their sexual experiences or lack of.  Teens will have sex so maybe the idea isn't to try and force abstinence down their throats but show how they can have these experiences responsibly.  If they want to have sex, talk to them and teach them responsibilities and if they don't, let them know that their choice is perfectly fine.

I respect Keplinger's message but I don't think we this message came through in the book very well and the author did fall into creating double standards.  See we have our main character Lissa who is tired of being ignored and abandoned so her boyfriend can have fights with and prank their school's soccer team.  Sometimes they're in the middle of foreplay and she's dropped within seconds because of this football vs soccer rivalry.  So she's sick of it.  I appreciate a heroine who will not be shoved around so when she gathers all the girlfriends of both sport teams to talk about their problems and sort something out I'm cheering.  But I don't think I like the way it was handled. 

I understand the story was inspired by Lysistrata but when this sex strike ends up as a rivalry between girls and boys and they start to tease each other I honestly don't think it's the best message to be sending out.  Be a tease to make a point.  The book made it out that it was fine for the girls to tease but not when the boys did.  Personally I don't think either gender should be teases.  And the way the girls agree that a sex strike would really make the boys listen is only implying to me that all men are sex obsessed.  The boys in this book have sex, fight, and play immature pranks on each other.  That's all they seem to do so while Keplinger's promoting female empowerment she does end up showing a bit of sexism towards males.  I have plenty of male friends in high school.  Some were a bit sex obsessed but some weren't.  It does make me want to see some YA books that explore a teenage boy's sexuality because they go through the same crap females do and unfortunately I think the boys tend to be overlooked.  I've known boys who have been terribly insecure and I'd like to see them have access to books that go through their problems.

There's always a neat little ending to Keplinger's books.  The girl gets the guy and the romance she wanted.  I would like to see a Keplinger book where the FMC is quite happy being on her own.  It's just as powerful to show a female character who can accept being single for the time being.  Not every girl has a boyfriend or doesn't want a boyfriend so I think we need to show those girls in books just as much.

It's an easy book to get through.  Light and quick.  But the messages are a little muddled which meant I had to give it three stars in the end.


  1. I just read A Midsummer's Nightmare, so I'll have to check this one out. I like seeing this other side of YA that's a little more realistic about sex, drugs, and other controversial stuff. I think Midsummer's Nightmare showed the consequences of the charcater's partying lifestyle, and more importantly, what led her to self-destructive behavior. The author does a great job showing those things through story rather than moralizing everything.

    1. The consequences you see in AMN were what I wanted to see in this book. These were teenagers who were punishing their other halves through their sex lives which I honestly did not like. I didn't think it was a great message to send for female empowerment. I'm not a feminist but I know if I had a daughter I wouldn't want her to read this book and think it was okay to use her sexuality to gain control and make a point.

  2. I could get preachy on this because it *really* annoys me that modern society simply assumes it's natural for teens to want to have romantic partners and have sex. I've known (and know) plenty of teens who are willing to wait, and who don't obsess about sex and boy/girlfriends--including my own kids. A big part of why kids today obsess about sex is because modern society is so highly sexualized. And this isn't just the prudish opinion of someone with a theological agenda--it's an honest observation of what's going on. And why does our society push this point of view? Sex sells. It sells movies, magazines, books, contraceptives...

    But I think this is one of the reasons that I'm not really interested in any of Keplinger's books. I reject her underlying assumption that it's okay to assume teens have sex, and that teen sex is morally acceptable. The fact is, such a situation as described in this book wouldn't exist in a culture where that underlying assumption wasn't true. Consider novels from pre-"sexual revolution" times, when relationships were founded on more than just physical attraction (JANE EYRE, anyone?). Maybe this is one of the reasons I tend to shy away from Contemporary YA, and I'm always pleased to find YA books where the protagonist isn't jumping into bed with people.

    I've not read this book, but it sounds to me a great way to end would be if this time of abstinence turned from being a punishment to a revolution in the way the characters saw their relationships with the opposite sex, and saw that sex was not as important as they thought. One of the last things YA books should do is affirm worn-out stereotypes. I think the relationship-obsessed, sexually active teen girl/boy is becoming a worn-out stereotype. As I said, I know many teens for whom this stereotype doesn't apply. As you said, there are many teens who choose to stay single and enjoy close friendships without the complications of romantic entanglements. These are not teens with a problem that needs to be fixed (which, of course, is the natural assumption from a society that believes teen sex is the norm), rather they are teens that recognize there's more to life than hooking up.

    Sorry for the ranty/preachy comment. To anyone that objects to my views, these are MY views, and not necessarily the views of the blog owner. Hate on me, not Robin. :)

    1. I usually don't read romance just because it makes the teen obsessed with having a boyfriend.

      I'm honestly fine with teens having sex but ONLY if that's what they want to do and if they are aware of the dangers and consequences. That's actually what I see a lack of. Looking at possible consequences or emotions. I actually liked the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants where one of the characters is obsessed with a guy and finally gets to have sex with him, only to find that she regretted it and wished she hadn't rushed and been so obsessive about it. I did like that exploration because sometimes sex isn't the experience you hoped it would be.

      Things just seem so black and white in YA books. You either have virginal girls who do want to wait and so the book preaches that teens should be abstinent or you have the sexually active girls where the book preaches all teen are fine to have sex. There's no balance and the authors don't properly explore the subject. What about the girls and boys who are interested in sex but have other things that they want to concentrate on? Can't teenagers be taught that in the end it's their choice whether they want to wait or experience but as long as they know that until it happens (and safely, please!) put other things in your life first?