My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
I found out about this book about a week ago, over at The Underground. I just finished The DUFF last month and really enjoyed that, so Shut Out ended up pretty high on my must read list. It looks to be pretty high on the want-reviewed list, too, if my first Book Wars poll is any indication. So I am happy to tell you that Shut Out did not simply meet my expectations -- it exceeded them in every way possible.
I can't believe I had to wait this long to read it. I've had it since Sunday. Someone needs to give me a medal. :p Because resisting the temptation to open it and get started was hard.
Anyway, let me tell you why you must read this book...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
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.
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. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.
Inspired by Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance, rivalry and sexuality.
Okay, first up: for those who don't know I am a Greek Mythology nut. This book does not have anything to do with Greek Myth, but it does have to do with an ancient Greek comedy. I studied it in university for a Greek Theatre course that I took. So I loved seeing it used here.
Lysistrata is not something that people generally study in high school via regular classes. I liked the fact that Keplinger was careful not to go that route. Considering that Cash and Lissa both seemed to enjoy working in the library, it felt believable to me that he would suggest she read it and that she would agree. It must also be noted that Lysistrata is not what gives Lissa the idea to do what she does and that Keplinger's story does not hinge on whether a reader has actually read the play. (That would have been disasterous, in my opinion. Its not the sort of thing most people are going to just pick up and read.)
There were some really interesting threads that all wove well together to create the plot of Shut Out as a whole: problems between Lissa and Randy, Lissa's family life, Lissa's friendships with the girls, the importance and problems of the unwritten rules of female sexuality, and (of course) Lissa's feelings for Cash.
Unlike my complaints with The DUFF, I feel that Keplinger did a far better job of making sure that the plot threads all built up well and that each resolved in a satisfying way. I also feel that each tied carefully into the two main things going on: the sex strike and the chemistry between Lissa and Cash. There did not seem to be any fat or filler here. I never found myself wishing Keplinger had skipped a scene. Everything had a purpose and fulfilled that purpose well. I made the mistake of starting the book late at night and by the time that I finished I could see the sun coming up. Bad for my health? Yes. Good for Shut Out? Absolutely!
The entire cast of Shut Out was good. There were a lot of characters, but so many of them stood out in their own unique way. Jenna and Logan falling in love. Lissa's dad telling her that he'd accept any boy who will make her happy and her concern for his health, the bonds of friendship that she builds with Chloe, Ellen, Kelsey and Mary (among others), how carefully Randy was constructed so that the reader could understand why Lissa was with him, and then why she didn't take him back.
And then, of course, we have LIssa and Cash, who are going to get their own moments in the spotlight:
I absolutely adored Lissa. She was quirky, compassionate, complex and strong. She had real issues to deal with and she might not have always handled them perfectly, but she handled them in ways that were true to her character. She was equal turns neurotic and caring when it came to her family. She hates how bossy Jenna is at the library, yet Jenna mirrors Lissa perfectly. She is vulnerable enough to feel hurt when stuff happens in her love life but she did not spend the book wallowing in self pity. And I loved her obsession with counting things. It was unique and memorable. (By the way, anyone besides me see the connection between Lissa and Lysistrata?)
Cash. Is. Awesome. There, I said it. I usually like the more edgy, dangerous brooding type of guy. Yet Cash seemed so totally sweet, romantic and sincere that I could not help feeling my heart turn to mush and butterflies fluttering in my stomach as I read about him and Lissa together. If one of Keplinger's goal was to show a parallel between a "meh" guy (Randy) and an awesome guy (Cash) she got it dead on. Cash is the kind of guy every girl should be dreaming of -- kind, considerate, funny and caring. He's definitely way up there with guys like Joe Fontaine and Alex Fuentes on my list of favorite male love interests.
Or more appropriately, "how they got together". This is another example of a slow building romance done well. There is a twist here, though. At the start of the book we get to see Lissa with Randy. We get to see how their relationship works and what she is going to "lose". Then we start to see Cash and what she could gain.
Keplinger does a great job of making the reader question whether Lissa and Cash will get together. She also leaves a bit of a mystery surrounding what made Lissa and Randy break up over the summer. That situation fits into one of the themes of Shut Out -- becoming comfortable with your sexuality, rather then feeling trapped by it -- extremely well.
One of my issue with some of the slow building romances I have read is that either the characters outright hate each other or they do not interact for a large portion of the novel. While Lissa does have mixed feelings about Cash, they are explained very well and are actually used in a way that makes the reader like him all the more even while they add fuel to the "Will these two get together?" fire.
I've heard a few people grumbling that Cash is a little too perfect. It is true that he is definitely an idealized character, but considering that he is designed to go parallel against Randy it makes sense here. Plus, it's nice to see a nice guy have a shot at finishing first for a change, in my opinion.
I couldn't put this book down. My clock hit 6 p.m. (the end of the poll), I started reading Shut Out, and I didn't stop reading until the book was done. As always, I'm aware that this book will not be for everyone. But for me it's one of those rare books that exceeds the five hearts that I can give it. (You know what that means, right...?) The dialogue and situations were laugh out loud funny, the pacing was excellent and the plot tied together well, making sure that all of the threads that were started were resolved by the time that the story ended.
I loved reading about Cash and Lissa. I loved watching Lissa become a leader for the strike. I loved watching Lissa deal with the situations that came up with her family. I loved watching Lissa realize that she deserved better treatment then she got from Randy. This was one of those books where, as the characters walked off hand in hand, I wanted to yell: "Hey! Where are you going? Wait up!" I didn't want it to end. As I said when reading The Sky Is Everywhere, I felt the same kind of connection to the characters in Shut Out that I strive to feel with my own characters when I write.
Smart, funny and real, Shut Out is the kind of book I love to review. Wait, you're waiting for my verdict? Why are you still here? If you haven't read Shut Out yet, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. Highly recommended!
Second Recipient Of...
1. A heroine I cheered for and a hero I loved.
2. Deals with real issues in an honest and entertaining way.
3. Laugh out loud funny.
4. I didn't want to close the book.
5. A book that reminded me of moments from my own teen years.