Monday, June 27, 2011

My Very First ARC: Shut Out

 So I haven’t really been blogging about reading and writing lately, because I’ve been too busy, you know, actually reading and writing. But there is a lot I’d like to blog about, and I’m starting with this.

A few weeks ago I received an ARC of Shut Out by Kody Keplinger. I’ve never had the chance to read an ARC before, so I knew that I’d be blogging my review of the book. I was so excited to see the little circle on the cover that said “Advance Reading Copy. Not For Sale.” Shut Out comes out September 5th and any fan of contemporary YA should get it.

From the back cover: 

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.

Now, I absolutely LOVE Kody’s first novel The Duff, but I’m actually torn on how I feel about Shut Out. Don’t get me wrong, I tore through it in about 24 hours. It was definitely entertaining, and of course I loved the boy. (Don’t we always love the boys?) But from a writing perspective, I wasn’t as impressed with this novel as I was with The Duff.

I think the biggest reason I couldn’t fall in love with this novel was because I didn’t like the main character, Lissa. Couldn’t stand her, actually. And it’s kinda hard to love a story if the narrator annoys you. Basically, Lissa’s a control freak. Now I have to admit that Kody had a good reason for making her that way (no spoilers!) and she deserves credit for that. It makes the story work. It’s just that Lissa drove me nuts. And she makes bad decisions for all the wrong reasons. I know it’s good to have a flawed character, and characters should make mistakes, and yadda yadda yadda. But the fact that she’s going about things completely wrong is so glaringly obvious that it’s kind of obnoxious to have to watch her screw up. I think dealing with someone like Lissa in real life would be ridiculously frustrating. (But once again, remember: she has legit reasons for acting the way she does.) Here ends the rant.

What I did ADORE about this story were the library scenes. Lissa and Cash end up working together in a public library. And these scenes made me feel all gooey inside. I love libraries and I love cute boys. And I especially love cute boys in libraries who actually read. (Not that I’ve ever encountered that elusive specimen of boy.) It was scenes like these that kept me flying through the book.

I also loved some of the supporting characters. Kody created a very dynamic group of girls. They were each very different and didn’t all like each other, which made for some hilarious dialogue. And what Kody did was use all of these different girls to flesh out her theme of teenage sexuality (no pun intended). Slowly the girls came to realize that everybody feels differently about sex, but at the same time, there is a lot that they have in common with one another when it comes to desires and anxieties.

Bottom line: Kudos to Kody for tackling the subject of sexuality head on! And anyone who enjoyed The Duff should be ready to grab Shut Out as soon as it’s released. It’s fun and romantic and comes with a great message for any teens who wonder if they’re “normal” with their sexuality. Do what’s right for you, don’t worry what anybody else is doing. Just be smart about it.

Side note: I won this ARC in the Help Write Now auction. It also came with a critique by Kody of the first three chapters of my manuscript. And Kody was super helpful. She recognized the problems with my story that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’ve known for a while now that something felt off, even after a handful of revisions. Turns out it’s the pacing. I’d actually started thinking that the story moves too slowly, but Kody pointed out how it really moves too fast. And once I read her comments, I totally got it. She’s so right. She also told me that the supporting characters have more characterization than my MC. I’ve known this the whole time I was writing, but I still haven’t worked on it. The fact that my MC is kinda blah is probably why I’ve been reluctant to really get back in there and fix this manuscript. Now that Kody’s advice has shown me what I need to do to get this publish-ready, I could revise again if I wanted to. But I’m starting my MFA program soon and I don’t think this story is worth the time right now. Maybe I’ll come back to it at some point though…

1 comment:

  1. Great, honest review :) I'll definitely be reading this one when it comes out, since I enjoyed The Duff.