Summary: When Lissa is repeatedly ditched by her boyfriend Randy for the silly hockey vs. soccer rivalry, she decides to take a stand, and convinces all the girlfriends of the waring athletes to go on a "sex strike" until the fighting stops. If only she didn't fall for the captain of the boys opposition.
In many ways, Shut Out is a perfectly average contemporary YA romance novel. It has the decoy boyfriend, this time named Randy. It follows a plot somewhat similar to Elizabeth Eulberg's The Lonely Hearts Club, where the protagonist leads a group of girls on a boy strike. It of course has the dreamy male lead and the happily ever after.
In a one way, though, Shut Out is extraordinary: in Shut Out, Keplinger is able to understand the secrets of teenage girls.
Keplinger understands the small moments that mean so much. One I loved was when the protagonist, Lissa, returns to the home of an old friend after a long falling out. This house feels so familiar to her, like a favourite song from childhood or a stroll through an alma mater. As she says, it feels like she's transported back through time, like she's thirteen again. I know that feeling. I understand it entirely. I have a friend from high school just like that. For two years we were the best of friends. Then, life happened, and we were normal teenagers, and we changed. But she was still in my social group. For New Year's this year, I attended a party with all my high school friends. It was at her house. It felt so weird for me, because, unlike most people, I knew where the bathroom was, and I knew her parents. I had spent hours and hours at that house in a previous life. As Keplinger describes, it was like going back in time. This is not something I talk about really or a feeling my friends describe. It's a small moment, a personal moment, yet somehow, Keplinger found that moment and managed to capture it.
Keplinger also understands the complexity of young female sexuality. I talked about it a lot in a previous post, but I'll repeat: I am not ready to have sex. But it's really more than that. I am uncomfortable with sexuality in general. I hate all the stupid innuendos people make. I hate all the stupid classes I have discussing sexual poems or, as my teacher termed it, "Canadian erotica". It makes me really uncomfortable. With my first boyfriend, I felt an intense guilt over any remotely sexual activities--even kissing. It's embarrassing to admit it, but I felt dirty. I was ashamed. Not all the time, but sometimes.
Keplinger was able to capture those feelings in Shut Out. She was also able to understand the secrecy that surrounds such feelings or any sexualization, even among the best of friends. I think a lot about dating; I never discuss it with my best friend. I have a few friends that I think have had sex, but I don't know. We don't talk about it. It's secret. And yet, somehow, Kody Keplinger knows about it.
She knows the girl like me who's ashamed by both her experience and her lack of experience. She knows the girl who is proud of herself, confident in her decisions, but shunned by society. She understands the double standards society imposes on female sexuality, but not male sexuality. She gets it.
I really enjoyed reading Shut Out. The romance between Lissa and non-decoy boyfriend Cash is really great, as he actually gets to be a real, vulnerable human being. Lissa is a good protagonist, with an interesting internal struggle. Those are reasons I would recommend this book. But the reason I will remember this book is because of the secrets it finally allows me to share.