Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult
Synopsis: 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. (from Goodreads)
Why did I pick it up?: My friend Liz handed it to me saying, "I think you would like this." She was right. Thanks Liz!
Favorite Lines: "I didn't ask for a light," Willie said.
"No, but you've tapped your cigarette fifty-three...now fifty-four times and I thought you might like to smoke it."
My Review: I loved Josie right away. She's a no-nonsense girl who from a young age is exposed to the details of her mother's life as a prostitute. At seven she can make a martini and sass the madam at the brothel where her mother later works. Josie moves out on her own, living and working at a bookstore. As if I needed more of a reason to relate with her, she views college as a way to change her unpleasant situation.
Her mother is rarely seen in the story but her actions are widely felt. A realistic scenario for negligent parents. Josie seems to be bombarded by her mother's unseemly profession and bad decisions at every turn. In lieu of a traditional family Josie has Willie the brothel madam, Cokie the loyal chauffeur, and the father and son in charge of the bookstore, Patrick and Charlie Marlowe. Every member of her motley family recognizes Josie as an exceptional young woman and does what they can to help. But when her mother gets involved with a notoriously dangerous man there's nothing anyone can do to stop Josie's life from being turned upside down.
The writing is succinct and keeps the story moving along a quick yet unhurried pace. Sepetys provides just enough details about the French Quarter and life there in the 50's to intrigue and educate but not to weigh the story down with lengthy descriptions.
I've often read and enjoyed YA novels that while entertaining for me are setting poor examples for adolescent girls. Characters who take no initiative but wait for the male lead or villain to force her to react. There's nothing wrong with these characters or stories. I don't think teens are all so impressionable that they will mimic that behavior. However Out of the Easy is not one of those books. Josie is smart, independent, and determined to do something to improve her prospects. Of course being a 17-year old girl and desperate to get out of New Orleans she does make a fair amount of poor choices that had me cringing. Josie tells more lies than she can keep track of, withholds information from police and blackmails a wealthy man. None of which serve her any good or help her to reach her goal of attending college in New England.
I wish there were more books like this and have added Between Shades of Grey to my read list.
My Recommendation: Fans of YA
For Next Time: Monster by Dave Zeltserman