Shut the Door

( 13 )


In one of the most impressive debut novels ever written by a teenager, Shut the Door, says the New York Post, is "a raw and disturbing portrayal of a suburban family."

In a household spiraling out of control, Lilliana and Vivian are two teenage sisters struggling to carve out their identities as young adults, taking risks and undergoing disturbing transformations that go unchallenged by their emotionally absent parents. Beatrice and Harry's marriage is disintegrating, and it no ...

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Shut the Door

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In one of the most impressive debut novels ever written by a teenager, Shut the Door, says the New York Post, is "a raw and disturbing portrayal of a suburban family."

In a household spiraling out of control, Lilliana and Vivian are two teenage sisters struggling to carve out their identities as young adults, taking risks and undergoing disturbing transformations that go unchallenged by their emotionally absent parents. Beatrice and Harry's marriage is disintegrating, and it no longer provides the safe harbor their daughters so desperately need. As the girls test boundaries and push limits, their silent cries for help are lost within the apathy that has crept into their family life. Harry's prolonged absence on a business trip finally provides the impetus to reevaluate family roles and relationships--and the choices made are shocking. In the vein of American Beauty, this evocative family portrait reveals just what happens when our support system falls away and we become emotionally disconnected from the ones we love the most.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the year's edgiest books." -Teen Vogue

"[A] potent grown-up tale about an everyday suburban family—including two well-drawn teenage daughters—teetering on the edge of destruction. Affecting and insightful!" -US Weekly

"This precocious debut by a 17-year-old author bears unblinking witness to an ordinary family's plunge into folie a quatre…Spellbinding…Marquit skillfully interweaves recurring motifs…Sure to attract a Gen-Y following and further traumatize parents." -Kirkus

"Marquit's dark subject matter…echo[es] Joyce Carol Oates…[a] youthful feat."

-Publishers Weekly

"A prismatic page-turner about the lies we tell ourselves and each other, and the inventions we cling to—all from a young scribe who's well on her way to brilliance." -Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble

Publishers Weekly
"To Mom, Dad, and Adam, for being the family upon which this book is based-just kidding." With this tongue-in-cheek dedication, 16-year-old Marquit displays a sense of humor that her blunt, melodramatic profile of a dysfunctional family otherwise mostly lacks. When restless head of the family Harry flies off on a business trip to Cleveland ("For once he felt free. And he loved this feeling"), his wife, Beatrice, is consumed by her need for him and comforts herself by robotically cooking his favorite meals ("Guess what? I'm making brisket tonight"). In the meantime, she neglects 16-year-old Lilli and 17-year-old Vivian-a bad move, because sexpot Lilli develops a crush on a college boy and a nasty habit of cutting herself, while awkward Vivian abruptly gets dyed, pierced and tattooed, and cultivates an eating disorder. It's to Marquit's credit that she makes an effort to get inside the heads of all four of her characters, and her breathy, italics-heavy narration and dark subject matter occasionally echo Joyce Carol Oates. Still, there's an emotional flatness to the story of Harry's eventual fling and Bea's nervous breakdown, and Lilli and Vivian's misadventures are only slightly more convincing. Marquit is at least as talented as fellow precocious teen author Nick Donell, but like Twelve, this is more youthful feat than fully fledged fiction. (Jan. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Middle-class family in free fall. This precocious debut by a 17-year-old author bears unblinking witness to an ordinary family's plunge into folie a quatre. Harry, Beatrice, and their teenaged daughters, Vivian and Lilliana, alternate points of view in a narrative composed of frantic interior monologues, punchy declarative sentences, repetitive fragments, beaucoup italics, and stretches of dialogue only-all spellbinding at first but later tedious, since all the voices sound alike, minus the profanity in the case of goody-two-shoes Beatrice. Never was a mother so maligned. Just ask her. Bea's only crime is to be a prudish, conscientious housewife whose prime mission in life is making hubby's favorite meals. Which she continues to do, even though he's away on a two-week business trip. Lilli, 16, blithely fornicates with older boys in her bedroom. But her self-possession flags when she falls in love with the stubbornly seduction-proof Paul, her guitar teacher. She copes by mutilating herself with a formidable array of sharp objects. Meanwhile, older sister Vivian, 17, is reshaping her studious image and plotting virginity loss. A little anorexia, one piercing, a dye-job, and a butterfly tattoo later, she gains provisional admittance to the court of the high-school mean girl, glossy-lipped Katerina. After Kat manipulates her into posing for lesbian-porn Polaroids, Vivian becomes a social pariah but achieves her ultimate goal: a neat role reversal with Lilliana. The incredibly mean-spirited Harry bemoans his ennui with Bea's too-chaste adoration and brisket dinners all these years as he skips business meetings to revel in the fleshpots of-Cleveland? Marquit skillfully interweaves recurringmotifs, including the room that isolates the characters-the teenagers' bedrooms that Bea avoids (they threaten her denial), Harry's hotel room, Bea's kitchen. There are also the stains on Lilli's rug and Bea's blue dress. In a shocking close, implacable ironies descend on the family, but the heavy-handed, one-dimensional portrayals cheapen the thrills. Sure to attract a Gen-Y following and further traumatize parents. Agent: Arthur Klebanoff/Scott Meredith Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312319304
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/21/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,445,649
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Amanda Marquit, nineteen years old, graduated from New York City's Professional Children's School and enrolled at Brown University in the fall of 2005. Amanda began work on Shut the Door, her first novel, at age fourteen and completed it at age sixteen.

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Read an Excerpt

Shut the Door


She felt awkward without him there. As if her movements were newer, more different, emptier. Blind and without meaning. And she had never known about missing him before. He had always just been there, asking nothing of her but his breakfast, the paper, a cup of tea (he never drank coffee). And now he was gone.

She pretended not to notice the emptiness. The silence. She switched on the radio, hoping to fill the empty seat with music that would replace the concave shape his body had left in the cushion. Years he'd sat there. Just yesterday he'd sat here. She had made her coffee already. Sat noiselessly in her seat, sipped, and stared at nothing.

She stood up and began to boil water on the stove.

It was routine. She'd been doing it for the last eighteen years, and would continue to do it for her entire life to come. No matter what happened, he'd be there, and she'd be there. She would make his tea, and he would smile that same weary, worn-out, drab smile that was almost too familiar to her now. But she loved it. She loved the monotony. Longed for it. She knew he would smile at her in the morning. She knew it every morning she had woken up fifteen minutes earlier than he had, to cook his breakfast. She knew it when they were newlyweds. And when they had gone to bed angry. She knew it when he was overtired, when he was stressed. And although she always knew he would do it, sometimes there was a slight tinge of fear that he wouldn't.

He always does.

And there was nobody there.

She laid the mug down at his place. Just where he likes it: the left side of the plate. She laid his paper on the right and waited. She waited as if she were expecting him, as if he were only late or in a traffic jam or caught in the rain. But it was sunny outside, and he was not there. He was not in the house. Was not outside. He was not in the garage or off to work early. He was not there.

Bea never prepared breakfast for Vivian and Lilliana. They always managed to feed themselves, or went out with friends, she supposed. She didn't really say very much to them in the morning. Sometimes she didn't even see them, but it didn't matter. As long as he was there, everything was fine. Harry, drinking his Earl Grey and reading his paper in the same way every time. And giving her that halfhearted smile that seemed to consume more and more of his gradually depleting energy with each day that passed. But that was enough. More than enough even. All she wanted was that, but this day, she couldn't have it.

She stared across the table at the cup, the paper, the clean white plate, and the emptiness. She wasn't hungry, but decided to cook breakfast anyway. She never ate it; she was always on a diet. But he did, and often he finished the scrambled eggs that she had only picked at, after he had cleaned his own plate. "This is good," he would say.

She made French toast and scrambled eggs.

At first she felt funny dumping the food onto the white china, but then a sense of comfort, of regularity, seemed to guide her through the familiar movements. It felt good to have a routine. To be involved in something she knew so well. To continue things as they were meant to continue. And she sat in her seat, and stared at the plate of food that she knew would not move until she moved it. She filled up her own plate as well, and picked at the eggs, waiting to give him her half-eaten meal.

He wasn't there though. She knew it. She saw the empty space, the full cup of tea, the plate, the neatly sectioned paper fresh with the morning's headlines. And she smiled back at him. She smiled as she did when he gave her his weary grin, and suddenly, as if the words had taken on a life of their own and sprung from her lips, she said, "Glad you like it."

For a moment, her breath caught in her lungs, her heart bounced in her chest, her eyes bulged. He was not there. Harry is not here. But it had felt good to speak. To carry out things the way they always were—and always had been. She'd felt the familiar sigh of relief when she'd said it. He'd liked the breakfast. He was eating the breakfast. He was drinking his tea, and he'd just smiled at her. And she always replied in that same way.

She spontaneously ran to the kitchen door and swung it shut. She didn't want the girls to hear this. She didn't want anyone to hear. She didn't want anyone to see, so she yanked down the shades on both windows. Switched onthe harsh white lights, and took her place again. She was safe now. Safe from the world. Safe from her daughters. Safe from prying neighbors, from people who might wonder. She was just there, living. Alive. Getting on with things that need to be done.

She checked the date on her watch. Thought about how he'd never been away for more than a weekend. He'd be back from Cleveland in ten days. She missed him more than she'd missed anything in her whole life.

SHUT THE DOOR. Copyright © 2005 by Amanda Marquit. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Lilliana and Vivian grew up with only a wall separating them, but they turn out very differently, each with her own issues. Who do you identify with more, and if she were your friend, how would you have suggested she deal with her problems?

2. Early in the book, Harry says "he liked being known as part of a working thing: a family, a machine." Does the word "machine" describe your family? If so, what role in the machine does each of your family members play? If not, think of another word that describes your family and talk about why this fits.

3. What do you think of Bea? Do you feel sorry for her? Annoyed by her? Bea asks herself "What was Bea without Harry?"…what do think is the answer to this?

4. Sex plays an important role in both girls lives but for opposite reasons: Vivian because she is a virgin and Lilliana because she sleeps with almost everyone. What about their personalities drives them to make these choices? What do you think of the way that their friends talk and gossip about sex: cruel or normal?

5. It took twenty years for Harry to officially recognize his unhappiness in his marriage. What do you think the early years of Harry and Beatrice's marriage were like? Why do you think Harry didn't leave Beatrice earlier? Once he finally did leave, what do you think the woman in red blouse and black skirt represents to him?

6. Is Lilliana in love with Paul? If yes, how should she have dealt with the situation? If you think it isn't love, then what would you call it and why?

7. Why does Lilliana cut herself? Why does Vivian starve herself? What does this self-inflicted pain bring them in the end?

8. Would you say this is an accurate portrayal of a family in distress? Of teenage sisters? If you have a sibling (or know someone with a sibling), is he/she as different from you as Lilliana and Vivian, or are you more alike?

9. What do you think we would find out if there were another 50 pages in this book? How do you see Vivian and Lilliana resolving, or not resolving, everything? How about Bea and Harry?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2007

    OK Book

    I was really interested in the beginning but I lost intrest towards the middle. This book has alot of cussing, alot of use of the f word.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating family drama

    Harry is in Cleveland on business for two weeks. His wife Beatrice misses making him breakfast as their daughters seventeen years old Vivian and sixteen years old Lilliana make their own meals. To pass time as she waits for Harry to return, Beatrice continues to prepare her spouse¿s favorite meals.------ Harry, on the other hand, is elated to escape his two tedious roles of husband and father. He plans to risk everything to find some fun and perhaps even purpose while in Cleveland.------- Neither seems aware that two teens live in their household. For instance Lilli has sex with older males in her bedroom while mom cooks. However, she has met her match in her guitar teacher Paul who rejects her siren¿s lure so she reacts by mutilating herself. The studious virginal Vivian decides to reengineer herself with a piercing, dye, a tattoo, and a food disorder so that she can gain entrance to the in crowd, but that fails when high school Queen Katerina tricks her into lesbian posing. Still she is on her way to sexual freedom even as her sibling turns to chastity.------ SHUT THE DOOR is an intriguing look at a middle class family whose set roles no longer provide solace so except for Bea still making brisket each seeks something new that devastates the ¿truce¿ between them. The character driven story line is at its strongest in the first three quarters of the novel as the audience becomes intimately involved with each character as perspectives rotates between them. Ironically the tale loses a bit of steam once the cast is fully known though the plot contains a surprisingly powerful closing twist. Amanda Marquit provides a fascinating family drama starring four individuals who no longer know one another though they live under the same roof.---- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2005

    Good at first....

    The book was a page turner in the beginning, but then in the middle of the story I started getting bored. The characters stopped developing, and the plot stopped going anywhere. I finished the book hoping for something exciting to happen, but was a little disappointed. Still, it's a good read, and I'm impressed that Amanda Marquit wrote it at such a young age. It begins to make some insightful points about society, but doesn't quite get there. Sort of like a joke without the punchline.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005


    this book was a great book it shows how some teens act at that age and how they feel about them selfs but sometimes it just seems stupid i love this book its great i really enjoyed reading it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2005

    Tragic or Terrific?

    All I can say is that Shut the Door really brought reality to the choices teens face and how they deal with them. It showed how The family enviorment that a child lives in may affect them. It depicts the harsh reality that is adultery, self-mutilation, popularity, drugs, sex, love and just wanting to be someone else. These are things every person may have to make a choice about in their lives. Shut trhe Door does not nessesarily have a story line. But as the novel progresses the charicters change and evolve. There is not much to say other than this book is definetly not for the close-minded, or those who choose to live in their own fanticy world where teens do not heve to face things such as homosexuality or sex. This book is for those seeking a little bit of truth in books. Those sick of little fanticy lies in books that dont shine enough light on the truth of what really goes on in the teen mind, as well as what may go on in the minds of those suffering from a dysfunctional family or marrige.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2005

    A young talent is discovered

    I would have to say that the book itself does characterize many of the families in our society today. Whether people admit it or not is up to them. Quite frankly I am amazed that such a young author would have the ability to produce such a novel. I think when you realize that she started this endeavor when she was only 15 years old is simply uncomprehendable to someone like myself. I expect many more great things from Ms. Marquit and look forward to reading her next book whenever that maybe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2005

    When will it end..

    I can't say much except that this book was overly dramatic, depressing, and a bad influence. It made me feel bad about myself and I only finished it in hopes of some sort of resolution at the end... which there wasn't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2005


    I must say that Ms. Amanda Marquit is an extremely talented young writer. The book was definitly a page turner. This dark tale about a suburban family that looks normal from the outside looking, and turns out to be everything but, is very well written. I recommend it to those that like reality no matter how shocking and gruesome it can be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2005

    racy book

    I think this book develops racy structures. I was infurated when I saw it. Not only does it put down the modern-day subcultures, it is prominatley fake. I know many children that do not have fathers at all and are taking it better then these children. Children are usally under the pressure of someone their own age rather then their parents. And I dont think someone who has to clean the closet for one week while their father is away would crack up. This book is a waste of money and time. Read miracle's boys. Shut the door sucked.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    Only 18?

    What an amazing read! My daughter couldn't put it down, which does not happen that often, and so I read it after her. Yes it depicts fast times and is quite risque, but the pages seemed to turn. The author's airy style makes this an easy read even though the subject matter at times takes some getting used to. I felt for these characters all the way through, and the concluding scenes heightened my sympathy for some of them. The author seems to understand things beyond her years and has a very unique and mature approach to the book¿s structure. However, as a parent of a teenager this book got to me - I was disturbed by what might have been in my own family, but thankfully is not. It got me thinking, which is a quality I look for in any novel. Amazing work for a kid. I could hardly write a coherent school report at that age, much less novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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