Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Penguin, 2013. ISBN: 9780141347332.
(Age: 15+) Ruta Sepety's second novel takes us to the French quarter of 1950's New Orleans. Amidst the crime and corruption, we meet Josie Moraine, the daughter of a prostitute, who has grown up no stranger to brothel life, but who dreams of more. Josie's dream is to get out of New Orleans and attend college, and she also holds on to the hope that somewhere out there she has a father from whom she may have inherited some good, to balance out her mother's bad.
Sepety's has developed strong characters, whose depth and sense of loyalty paint a strong picture of community within the ghetto of post-war New Orleans. The protagonist, Josie, does seem somewhat larger than life in her ability to remain largely unmarred by the world in which she lives, and the brothel madam is held up as both a heroine and benefactress. While the novel did seem a bit too clean cut for the environment around which it revolved, it was full of fascinating characters and interesting details of community life within this part of the city.
Out of the Easy is an engaging novel that is easy to read but doesn't dumb down the language. It has been elegantly written, though I did feel that the plot, while containing several elements of intrigue, did not have as stronger resolutions as I would have liked.
This is a novel driven largely by character and setting, and both work well to weave a story that left me wanting more. I commend Sepetys for her efforts and would read other books by her.
Certainly not a novel for younger readers, though sexual references are not explicit.
Editor's note: Out of the Easy has been nominated for or won many awards, including YALSA Top 10 Fiction for Young Adults.