Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger is a book the surprised me. It's honesty a book I didn't think I would enjoy. I decided to give it a chance, because I hadn't expected to like The Duff, but was very pleasantly surprised. And, while there were definitely things about this book that bothered me, or didn't sit well with me, for the most part, I did enjoy it.

Keplinger is a strong writer. So far she is 2 for 2 — delivering books that I didn't expect much from and surprising me with how well they are written, and how entertaining the story is. Keplinger does a great job writing heroines that many people will find themselves understanding, relating too, and connecting with. Lissa has her doubts, her insecurities and her desires and, for the most part, I liked her a lot.

There are two male leads — Cash and Randy, and both bring something unique to the story. I had some issues with Randy from the beginning, but I didn't like how his character was treated. I never really loved his character, but I felt like there was some unexplained, drastic character switching mid-way through the novel that wasn't really... set up as well as it could have been. Cash, however, is awesome. And you know that things are gonna get interesting between them. Oh, and also — he reads and recommends obscure Greek plays. Win!

As for the story itself, I had a bit of a hard time with how caviler this book was in its treatment of teen sex. I know that teenagers have sex, but this book makes it seem like every single character is having sex and, that the few who don't, are really weird and strange and behind the times smart for waiting until it really is right for them. It also offers some super crappy justification for continuing to have sex. Like one character, who genuinely does not enjoy having sex, but she keeps it up and pretends to like it, because it makes her boyfriend happy. This bothers me. I know that there are going to be teen girls out there, who are sexually active in this way. But I don't think it's positive. If it's something you do not enjoy, then you do not have to keep doing it! Seriously.

More teenage girls NEED to know that. They NEED to know that if they don't want to, or are not ready to have sex, then SO WHAT?! It's OK. It is ok, and they have the RIGHT to control who they allow that level of intimacy with. Considering the topic, I really wish that the book had made more of a statement about this, considering (IMO) a huge reason for this book was to make a point. Lissa's boyfriend pressures her to have sex. You get a sense of it from the very beginning of the book. And while he is ultimately labeled a dickhead and it is mentioned that trying to coerce a girl into having sex to stay in a relationship or to prove she loves you is wrong, it's not given all that much attention, and isn't really addressed. It's more like a passing thought when really, there are so many girls who need to hear that, need to believe and understand that it's not okay for a guy to try and force that.

I'm really torn on this one, because, while I did like it, it's honestly not one that I would really recommend to teenage girls. No matter how well written the book is, it does make light of a subject I think is incredibly important and serious. It's something that is already treated far too lightly by our entire society. And honestly, teenagers don't need another book that says it's about learning to get a handle on your own sexuality and being comfortable with whatever is right for you, but that actually shows a lot of relationships contrary to that and portrays them positively. Talk about mixed signals.

So, I doubt I will be rushing to supply this book to the teen girls in my life, but I do think that there are a lot of people who will love this one without reservations, especially the older crowd. Me personally, I don't like books that trivialize important topics, and I think Shut Out has a tendency to slip into that gray area a few times.

So, if I'm being honest, I liked this book. Quite a lot actually. And a large part of why I liked it so much, is because I didn't expect to like it, so it was definitely a very pleasant surprise. But Keplinger is a talented writer, and I will continue to read more from her. Now I just wish Keplinger would write a book that doesn't go out of its way to tackle the Oooh! Controversy! surrounding sex in YA. If she keeps going with it, sorry... But it's gonna look like agendizing and trying to hard.