Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: February 12, 2013 (hardcover)
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 4 Stars
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.
Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.
With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
Although I haven't read Ruta Sepetys's previous novel Between Shades of Gray, I've heard tons of glowing praise for it, so I couldn't wait to read Out of the Easy, hoping it would be just as amazing. Out of the Easy really is a gorgeously written historical fiction novel! The words on the pages seemed to flow effortlessly together and brought the story completely to life. Set in the early 1950s, Ruta Sepetys's Out of the Easy is a coming-of-age story filled with hope, hardship, romance, and the darkly exciting Southern flair of New Orleans.
Josie is truly the star of this novel, and her character development is easily the strongest in Out of the Easy. Fate seems to be conspiring against Josie, but I rooted for her to succeed from the very beginning and loved how she never gave up fighting for her future. Growing up in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Josie is known to the locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute working for Willie Woodley. Josie has essentially raised herself, away from her mother's negative and sometimes abusive influence, and lives alone in a small apartment above her best friend Patrick's family-run bookshop where she also works too. Josie is hard-working, intelligent, and stays true to her morals. She would do anything to leave the Big Easy and attend a prestigious college, but she also knows her limits and would never sell her body for the much needed money.
If I had to say anything negative about the book, it would be Josie shines so brightly in Out of the Easy that everyone else around her sort of fades into the background. These characters are not necessarily forgotten, but their storylines felt unresolved to me when I reached the conclusion. Josie's mother is weak and refuses to accept she's growing older, acting like a teenager and partying. Despite Josie's warnings, she also continues to date a dangerous man. I felt bad for Josie, I really did. I mean, she continues to worry and care about her Mom, even though she really doesn't deserve it.
Josie and Patrick's conversations as they worked together in the bookshop and had a little game of guessing customer tastes were some of my favourite scenes. Patrick had his own personal issues to deal with, and seemed to disappear sometimes, and I wish this had been further explored, that Josie had noticed something wasn't quite right with her closest friend. There's also a dash of romance in the novel in the form of the very gorgeous yet sweet Jesse. Although her mother certainly has a reputation with men, Josie is very inexperienced, and it made her vulnerable to open her heart and draw closer to him.
Despite some faults I found with character development in Out of the Easy, I was able to overlook them while I was reading, so it didn't really affect my reading experience negatively. Throwing in the mysterious murder of a wealthy tourist that sets events in motion, Ruta Sepetys has written an absolutely compelling novel that swept me away to a different time period. If you enjoy reading YA historical fiction novels, I'd definitely recommend Ruta Sepetys's Out of the Easy!
Thanks so much to Penguin Canada for providing this review copy!