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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
Shut Out - Kody Keplinger As I was reading through this, my mind kept going back to Elizabeth Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club. While this isn’t a direct comparison of the two books, as the circumstances between the respective strikes are different, I really couldn’t help but doing a compare and contrast. Obviously, Eulberg has a more lighter affair that sugarcoats its message of sisterhood solidarity, while Kody Keplinger isn’t afraid to boil the argument down to girls and their sexual partnerships. (I give Keplinger a lot of credit for exploring teen girl sexuality frankly in the two books I’ve read by her so far. There’s still some problematic elements—I’ll get to them later—but given the realism of her characters, I don’t blame her for said problematic elements.) Yet, despite the surface maturity of Keplinger’s and its stronger focus on sex as a weapon, there are strong similarities between the two books: incredibly rash decisions by teen girls against boys, female bonding, and conflicting feelings brought on by hormones.Just had to get that out of the way, because it was sticking in my head as I was reading Shut Out. Focusing on this book proper, I’ve never read Lysistrata but I do know the vague plot details of it through other mentions in pop culture. (There was an episode of M*A*S*H that uses the withholding sex as a plot device. Yeah.) And as far as YA retellings go, this one isn’t as bad or rote as I’ve seen. (Although that could also be due to the fact that Lysistrata isn’t as well-known as say, freaking Pride & Prejudice.) It helps that Lissa does read the actual play after the strike begins and does acknowledge the similarities between her situation and the events of the play. Which is something that I’ve never really seen in other retellings/reworkings, especially when the source material is older and considered canonical. However, there are two problems overall with the main set up. The whole rivalry between the football and soccer team feels extremely weighted in the soccer team’s favor. Lissa makes a point that both teams have gotten extremely out of hand (to the point that—athlete worship aside—official actions should have been taken) . But it feels that the football team carries the majority of the blame and the escalating violence, and we never get to see the soccer team get out of hand. No matter how small the injury, physically harming someone is more serious than getting egged while trying to make it with your boyfriend. There’s nothing to suggest that the soccer players are as bad as the football players in terms of retaliation. And it’s partially because that we never get to know anyone associated with the soccer team. Of the assembled girlfriends, the only named girl is Ellen, and we never get to see anyone else aside from Cash and Ellen’s boyfriend Adam. (May I point out what a missed opportunity Ellen is? Lissa mentions that the rivalry tore them apart as friends, but it never feels like they were particularly close. Really, if the rivalry is bad enough to dump your best friend, I’d actually use that as the catalyst for a sex strike, not “We got egged again.”)I never feel like I get to know any of these characters intimately well. Even Lissa, who is the narrator, doesn’t feel as fully fleshed out. I do like that she’s a flawed character and that her flaws are not only called out by Cash and her other friends, but Lissa herself acknowledges her frosty exterior. (Again, I give Keplinger credit for writing realistic main characters, and that realistic doesn’t necessarily mean bland.) But while I do get why Lissa is so overprotective of her family and others, we never get to see another side of her. I never get why her being a virgin is a big deal or why she won’t sleep with Randy—which wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t a minor plot point. I’m not asking for every single detail of Lissa’s life, but I wanted there to be more to her. Similarly, Cash isn’t fleshed out either. We do find out his history with Lissa from the past summer, and his home life, but there’s not much to Cash aside from being charming and his belligerent sexual tension with Lissa. I get that he’s the major love interest, but there’s nothing that grabs me and makes me want to ship him and Lissa.And I would chalk up the lack of character development to the fact that this book is too short. The plot is rushed, there’s no real room for character growth and I think the book suffers for it. I’m not asking for a 500 page tome, but beefing up the story would have helped not only the characters, but the plot as well. There’s no heated battle of the sexes here; at best, we get a few skirmishes. There’s no heated retaliation from the boys’ side, and I would have liked to have seen things go a little out of control. I do like that Lissa doesn’t realize right away that the boys have banded together, but there needed to be more build-up to the ending. If there was one thing that I do like, it’s the discussion of female sexuality and the hypocrisy of “Girls are either sluts or prudes and there’s no in-between.” It’s not a perfect discussion, but given that we are talking about a group of high schoolers, I don’t exactly blame the problematic slang thrown around the girls’ slumber party. What I do respect is that Lissa doesn’t judge any of the girls for their sexual experience or lack thereof. Chloe repeatedly talks about why she sleeps around and isn’t particularly demonized for it (aside from repeated uses of ‘slut’). While Mary gets criticism for choosing to wait to have sex at first, Lissa does stand up for Mary and the other girls do see that being a virgin doesn’t necessarily equal being a prude. Again, it’s not a perfect discussion, but it is more frank than YA lit that allows its heroines to have sex…but not too much sex. But aside from that, the real problem of this book is the pacing issue. This is only 273 pages, and I felt that there could have been so much more done with the story and the characters. There’s a lot that I feel like I wasn’t told about Lissa or Cash and that we could have really seen a true battle (as far as high school intersex battles can go) resulting in a bigger climax and character development for Lissa. It’s not a bad book, but it’s very weak. I’d really stick with Keplinger’s debut for now.