Book Title/Author: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher/Year: Philomel Books – February 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Other Books From Author: Between Shades of Gray
I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
It’s New Orleans in the 1950’s and Josie desperately wants to get out of the Big Easy and away from the lingering black cloud of her mother’s reputation of being a prostitute at the local brothel that is run by the infamous Willie Woodley and has basically been a second home to Josie. As she works hard at the bookstore and cleaning up the brothel after nights of debauchery, she dreams and devises her plans to get out until a wealthy man, who makes an impression on Josie, is found murdered and foul play is suspected. Unable to let it go, Josie tries to figure out what happened to this man and finds herself caught in the underbelly of the Big Easy and at risk of losing her dreams of going to college and hurting the ones she loves.
Ok. You know how much I rave about Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys but after reading Out of the Easy I can officially declare that she is one of my favorite historical fiction authors ever! I will read anything she writes. Out of the Easy, like Between Shades of Grey, had that easy and smooth transportable quality to it. I’ve never been to NOLA but Ruta so easily makes me feel like I’m ambling around the French Quarter in the 1950’s. I just love the way she is able pull back the curtain to allow me to peer into this life I’ve never experienced — whether I’m in Siberia starved to death or trying to grow up in the French Quarter with your mother’s reputation like a lingering cloud above your head.
The best thing about Out of the Easy, obviously besides Ruta’s storytelling abilities, is the characters. Gosh I just loved so many of them! I feel like I haven’t read a book in a while where I felt like the majority of characters, upon closing the book, were just clamoring to get out and linger in my heart a while longer. She writes those kind of hearts-are-beating, blood-flowing-through-the-veins characters that are just so alive. And the baddies? Well they are of the blood boiling variety. You hate them with a fierce passion (her mom and Cincinnati mostly) and, I don’t know about you, but I got this intense desire to pistol whip them. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? Those mobsters wore off on me apparently. I just loved Josie and her determination to get out of the French Quarter and not become like her mother. She was noble and genuine, a little rough around the edges in all the right places, and so many things broke my heart in this story because of my complete love for her. I love Willie and her “nieces”, Cokie (oh that man!), Patrick and Charlie and sweet Jesse. Oh I just love all these characters so hard. They created this beautiful little family and I felt like I was apart of it when my heart would ache with the heartbreaking parts and soar during the heartwarming parts. My heart was basically on fire.
My only complaint was that at times the plot dawdled for me. This is definitely more of a character driven novel and I loved that but at certain points I just wasn’t really sure where the book was going and there were just a lot of threads of story there and some just seemed to sort of come undone for me — like a stray, wispy piece of hair coming out of my ponytail. I will say that if you are looking for the emotional gut punch of Between Shades of Grey, Out of Easy isn’t that. In Between Shades of Grey, I felt everything with intensity and felt like I learned about a heartbreaking history I never knew and I felt changed. It’s more subtle with Out of the Easy — I can’t say I really saw a piece of history that took me by surprise — but the characters and their stories just creep up on you until you find yourself choking back a surge of emotion at times.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys was a fantastic story that I’ve anticipated for a while — little bit of mystery, little bit of romance, mother-daughter issues and the struggle of a girl to reach for her dreams even if they might seem impossible. Don’t come looking for the sort of gut punching emotion you may have experienced in BSAG but be prepared to fall in love with some amazing characters and be immersed into their lives slowly but surely and emotions will make their way into your throat before you even realize your choking them back. It’s hard to talk about the plot because sometimes I felt like I was doing that stutter-step “which way are you walking” dance you do when people are walking towards you because I just felt the plot was meandering a bit but Ruta pulled it together nicely at the end to make me not care about that. And really, the characters drove this story for me. It’s a great story and I’m so glad to have experienced it.
For Fans Of: YA historical fiction for sure, character driven novels where you have to remind yourself that the characters are not real, a darn good story that isn’t always LOUD and action-y
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what did you think? How much did you LOVE THE CHARACTERS?? Who was your favorite? Did anyone else feel like the plot was going in a few different directions? Curious to if you prefer BSAG or Out of the Easy? They were just two totally different experiences for me as I said above!