by Kody Keplinger
I loved Kody Keplinger's debut novel, The DUFF, a frank and honest exploration of high school romance. In her second novel, the author delivers a very capable re-telling of Greek playwright Aristophanes's Lysistrata. In the original play, a comedy, the title character Lysistrata arranges a "sex-strike" to convince the armies of Athens and Sparta to stop fighting.
The opening scenes of Shut Out are like a slap in the face, and I mean that in the best possible way. Readers are rudely reminded that most high school boys are not dreamy romantics. Indeed, most are horny, inconsiderate jerks. Teen Lissa's boyfriend, football quarterback Randy (get it? Randy??) barely pays attention to her - even when they're making out, he's busy planning some sophomoric prank to play on the soccer team. While many schools enjoy a football rivalry between schools, Hamilton High has an internal rivalry between the football team and the soccer team. Fed up with Randy's disgusting behavior, Lissa decides to enlist her friends in shutting out the boys' advances until they can behave like gentlemen.
In the meantime, Lissa develops a growing interest in Cash Sterling, leader of the soccer team. Even though she's underwhelmed by Randy's charm, she's afraid of letting down her dad and her brother, both big football fans. It's obvious that Cash is the better choice for Lissa but it takes them a while to figure it out. They hooked up briefly a year ago, but due to a misunderstanding never pursued things. They're thrown back together when they end up working at the local library together. I'm always a bit skeptical when I read a book with libraries or books in it; is the author pandering to librarians? But, I loved the scenes where Lissa trains the new clerks. She's simultaneously bossy, detail-oriented and perfectionist, yet still manages to come across as a loveable nerd who is just trying to figure out how to master social skills.
Of course, the book suffers from the same weaknesses as the original play: an overemphasis on sex, and a somewhat juvenile approach to relationships. I had trouble believing that the girls would feel so sex-starved so soon - they have as hard a time with their celibacy vow as the boys do. On the whole though, Keplinger's version warms and humanizes Aristophanes rather two-dimensional characters. All of the characters, including Lissa, her family, her circle of girlfriends, even disgusting Randy really ring true. Cash is a hero, but not in a "too good to be believed" way. There's a lot of discussion, from a feminist perspective, of the double-standard for sexually-active men and women. Keplinger has her finger on the pulse of how teens speak. I'll recommend this book for older teens.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.