Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release date: February 12th 2013
Genre: Historical Young Adult
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My rating: 4 out of 5 starsIt’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.
After Ruta Sepetys's debut novel, Between Shades of Grey, I was expecting another heartbreakingly tragic story. Out of the Easy is definitely tragic in some ways, but this tragedy, much more than in Between Shades of Grey, is balanced out by humorous moments that made me laugh and a sense of hope that prevails throughout the story. But being less depressing doesn't make Out of the Easy any less powerful than Between Shades of Grey - Out of the Easy is a another inspiring and unforgettable read from Ruta Sepetys.
The worldbuilding is what I loved most about Out of the Easy. I don't read too much historical fiction, but this novel made me question why. The atmosphere of New Orleans in 1950 really comes across in this novel; it is vibrant and vivid, and I felt like I was there alongside Josie. There is drama, there is intrigue, and there are terrible things happening at the same time as Josie is just trying to figure out where she belongs. I absolutely loved this unique and vivid setting.
This setting is made even better by the rich cast of characters. Josie is a character that is easy to connect to, and I felt for her throughout the novel. My favorite character is probably Willie; she's an amazing woman, and I love the role she plays in Josie's life. The rest of the women working at the brothel are fascinating to read about, too, and I love how they're portrayed as real people with diverse backgrounds and personalities. Then there's Patrick and Jesse, both of whom I loved; but even more so, I loved how they - and their relationships with Josie - never take center stage. Even though I really liked reading about Josie's interactions with both of them, I appreciated that Ruta Sepetys did not turn this into the typical love triangle and instead focused simply on Josie's story.
The only thing that sort of bothered me about Out of the Easy was the message about prostitution that readers can take from this. I'm conflicted on what to make of it: on the one hand, I appreciate how Ruta Sepetys portrayed the prostitutes (other than Josie's mother) as good-hearted people, and Josie never judges them for what they do. On the other hand, the entire story revolves around Josie trying to not get hung up in such a life of prostitution, which refutes that message. If the story is trying to fight against the stigma of prostitution, and the only way for Josie to do this is to distance herself from that lifestyle, then I don't think it's really fighting the stigma at all. I don't really know how to feel about that: of course I wanted Josie to live her dream of going to college, too, which makes it impossible for the story not to send a message like that, but it still didn't sit right with me.
Despite this one issue with the novel's message, I absolutely loved this story. With a vivid atmosphere and a rich, dynamic cast of characters, Out of the Easy presents the hardships of Josie's life without ever losing its sense of humor or hopeful message. Out of the Easy is a must-read.