Review: Out of the Easy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Out of the EasyOut of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel on February 12, 2013
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 346
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

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.

First Sentence: “My mother’s a prostitute”

Time to add another author to the list of those I have a total crush on. Ruta Sepetys’ debut Between Shades of Grey, which I really hope sold some extra copies due to the popularity of 50 Shades and the errors of shoppers, impressed me. Out of the Easy proves that she has the talent to branch out and write a story wholly removed from her first.

Yet again, Sepetys writes about a section of history oft-ignored in YA fiction, and, really, fiction in general. Set in New Orleans in 1950, Sepetys focuses on the city’s seedy underbelly and the colorful characters that inhabit it. So much of our idea of the 1950s comes from television shows, but Out of the Easy is nothing like those. Her depictions of historical periods, accurate and so well-drawn you feel like you’re there, are my very favorite part of her fiction.

Now, I know historical fiction scares some readers, but, if you were considering branching out, Sepetys’ would be a really great choice. The time period isn’t too far removed from our own for one thing. Perhaps more importantly, Sepetys sets the scene so well that it feels like a contemporary. You’re seeing through Josie’s eyes and this is your world.

So much of YA fiction focuses on well-off characters, and I love that more books are starting to come out that deal with characters in straitened circumstances. Jo’s mother works as a prostitute, and, from a young age, Jo has essentially taken care of herself, earning money working in a bookstore and cleaning the whorehouse. Jo has so much strength, and works so hard everyday all for the hope of something better in her future, even though she cannot really grasp what that might be.

The central theme of the novel deals with the mother-daughter relationship, between both her actual mother, Louise, and the woman who’s perhaps had more influence on her coming of age, Willie, the madam of the house. Louise gives Jo just enough affection to keep her useful, but does not actually care for her at all. Jo has so much promise, obviously worlds more intelligent than Louise, but Jo wants so much to please her mother. This often works to Jo’s detriment, her mother taking advantage again and again.

Willie, on the other hand, appears at first to be a villainous figure. Certainly, she has a temper and lashes out a lot, but her bark is worse than her bite. She loves Jo, in her own messed up way, and really has her back when the chips are down. Their relationship speaks to the way families you build can be so much stronger than those you’re born into. Sepetys also depicts all of the prostitutes in such a fair light, not endorsing the lifestyle but not condemning them for it either.

Unlike most YA, Sepetys spends little time on romance, focusing more on world building and characterization. What romance there is I found quite satisfying, but I’m glad Sepetys keeps it to a minimum. The ending, with the bit of romance, adds a hopeful feel to an otherwise quite bleak novel, and, while I normally kvetch about such things seeming too optimistic, I think it really fits here.

Sepetys’ sophomore novel shines just as much as her debut. I expect that Out of the Easy will be one of those books I will love more on a reread than I already do. It’s a safe bet to say that I will read anything Sepetys writes.

Favorite Quote:

“Shelves without books were lonely and just plain wrong.”

46 responses to “Review: Out of the Easy”

  1. I’m actually really glad now that I have this novel on my wishlist. What I saw in your review I liked, and I think I’d love this book. Thank you, Christina!

  2. Ashley says:

    I’m dying to read this book, Sepetys was put onto my immediately read list after Between Shades of Grey. I’m curious to see how she deals with the era’s politics.

    • Christina says:

      She deals beautifully! Though, I warn you, it’s not so much about the politics of the era in general. The focus is pretty narrow on the politics of New Orleans.

  3. Kat Balcombe says:

    Yesssssss I’m SO glad this was a good read for you – there’s nothing better than well-done historical fiction, especially if it’s not too heavy on the romance.

    I can now stalk this without any hesitation, thanks!

  4. “Perhaps more importantly, Sepetys sets the scene so well that it feels like a contemporary. You’re seeing through Josie’s eyes and this is your world.” Completely agree with what you’ve written! Haven’t read her first novel but when I read this book, I was awed by the sense of time and place, and certainly what must have taken a great deal of research and skill to make the 50s come alive.

    • Christina says:

      She really does! I noticed it less in her first book, just because I’ve done a fair bit of research on the gulag system so it wasn’t as unfamiliar to me. Not only does she make the 50s come alive, but a segment of society I’ve never heard much about. Love it!

  5. I *adore* Ruta’s writing. I loved Between Shades of Gray when I read it last year (and I’m totally with you in hoping that people have bought it by mistake due to Fifty Shades, I’ve been thinking the same!) and I finished Out of Easy last week. SUCH a good book! I don’t really read much historical fiction, but Ruta’s books are definitely going to be top of my list for a long time. I love them! Great review πŸ™‚

    • Christina says:

      Haha, seriously, the main thing I’ve been hoping is that people will by this and Fforde’s Shades of Gray by accident, and discover good fiction. She does such a wonderful job with historicals. I really do think they’re more accessible for people who don’t normally venture into that genre.

  6. Giselle says:

    LOL @ the first line! Win! I am weary of historicals, BUT, I do like them sometimes. Like I loved The Diviners, so I think this one could be another good one. I love being thrown into the setting as if I was living it. I also like how it sounds like a very mature YA novel. Not dramatics or melodrama, but actual story with emotion– that isn’t taken over by sappy romance which is another plus. I remember seeing a lot of great reviews on this one a few weeks/months ago (did it come out in the UK early or something?) but I always trust yours most so I’ll have to check it out!

    • Christina says:

      I have so many author crushes.

      This one doesn’t have the paranormal twist of The Diviners, BUT I do think it does the setting just as well, and I think you’ll enjoy the darkness of the plot. So many bad guys. Definitely very mature. There’s a lot about prostitution, and so forth.

      No idea. Maybe people just read their ARCs earlier?

  7. Oooh focussed on world building and characterization? WIn! I had no idea what this one was about but I always stare at that cover. I, like you, am always looking for books that don’t focus on some privileged family and an MC who has had everything handed to her/him their entire life. This one sounds pretty gritty in it’s own way, I think I could really appreciate that. And a strong focus on family (family being what we make it, not what we are born into) is appealing. I’ll be checking this one out too!

    • Christina says:

      Yup! It’s funny how rare it is that romance isn’t a main theme! The cover is great! Love it. The cage is totally a metaphor for her mom/New Orleans.

      Anywho, she’s super not privileged, and gritty definitely works as a descriptor!

  8. I love the fact that the main focus of Out Of The Easy isn’t the romance. I’m getting kind of burnt out on that sort of angst and this seems like the perfect read for me. Plus, I fell in love with Between Shades Of Grey, even though it totally broke my heart wide open.

    ALSO! YAY YAY YAY for characters who are more than they appear — with regards to the madam. I literally cannot wait to read Out Of The Easy omg. WHY DO I HAVE A MILLION JANUARY RELEASES TO READ WHYYYY.

    • Christina says:

      Bahaha, you have a million to read because all of the publishers LOVE you. This is both a blessing and a curse. lol.

      Dude, you will LOVE this. Just saying. Skip January and read this first!!!!

  9. -dances embarrassingly-

    Yes! You liked it! We can stalk Sepetys’s future writing plans together because I am jumping on anything else she puts out in the future. I actually didn’t care much for Between Shades of Gray, but this one kicked me right in the damn feels and pokes me there every time I think about the book. I’m kinda glad no one wanted to swap for my copy because it means I get to keep it. <3

    • Christina says:

      Yay! I think I actually like Between Shades of Grey better, because it got ME in the feels, where this one I adored but didn’t FEEL. Haha, ironic that.

  10. Yay!! I’m so glad you hear you liked this one! This’ll be my first book by Sepetys, but it sounds awesome, so I can’t wait to read it. And I absolutely love stories with such strong relationships, and for some reason, non-family relationships that are strong and with father/mother figures speak to me more than real family relationships. And I absolutely love that the main focus isn’t the romance!

    • Christina says:

      Yay! This one’s definitely less depressing than her first, though it’s certainly not a barrel of laughs, either.

      Those sorts of families are so much stronger for me as well!

  11. Bookworm1858 says:

    I thought this book was amazing and especially appreciated the atypical setting. I hope readers who don’t normally check out historical fiction give this one a chance!

  12. I’m glad to see you liked this one. I only scanned your review because I am reading this one myself soon, but the 4/5 rating is certainly encouraging. I hope I even love it more than that!

  13. Renae says:

    Little time on romance? Yaay! I honestly wasn’t wowed by Sepetys’ debut for some reason, but this one looks really good. Mother-daughter relationship sounds fantabulous, too. Like Kara, only skimmed your review because I totally plan on reading this when it comes out, but I’m excited, because you liked it!

  14. I’m one of those people that shy away from historical fiction, but I read a couple last year that were good and this one definitely sounds good, especially since the characters do not have all the money in the world ever.

  15. Lulie V says:

    This looks so good!! I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and luckily, I’m not afraid of historicals. πŸ˜‰ Great review, Christina!

  16. Amanda says:

    I cannot wait to read this book! I think I’ll probably read Between Shades of Gray first because that time period sounds more interesting to me, but this actually sounds pretty interesting itself. I don’t know much about New Orleans and I am super intrigued about a book where the prostitutes are being overly idealized or shamed. Great review!

  17. Woo hoo! It’s getting close to release day for Out of the Easy and I am so excited because I was lucky enough to read a touring ARC months ago and I have been dying for everybody else to pick this one up and see how amazing it is! Like amazing enough that I emailed Sepetys to see if she would be touring the book in New Orleans because I wanted to be there for that. (She is!)

    I couldn’t agree more with all that you said, Christina. I love the characters of Josie, Willie and COKIE so much. And, having not read Between Shades of Gray yet (I know, I know) I was totally unprepared for her wonderful writing (or how funny some of it is!) And how awesome is both the title AND the cover, too? πŸ™‚

    Great review. I can’t wait to re-read this too:)

    • Christina says:

      Oh wow, are you going to New Orleans just for the tour? If so, I am seriously impressed with your dedication, and I’ll look forward to the post about it!

      Cokie’s very sweet, and I wish I’d seen more of him. Willie I thought I would hate but ended up liking so much.

      Love the title and cover!

    • Well, I only live about 3 1/2 hours from NOLA so it’s not that big of a deal:) But I am super excited to be at the event in that city which is such an important part of the book:)

    • Christina says:

      That’s still commitment! I hope it’s unbelievable. You should definitely visit some of the sites mentioned in the book!

  18. i love historical fiction and Between Shades of Gray is one of my favorite book! i love when author tackles uncommon issues like wars/prostitution/racism.

    i really can’t wait to read this book!

    • Christina says:

      She definitely tackles those issues. It’s wonderful! I love when YA authors branch out into those things, because it’s not like teens don’t need to know about that just as they much about how popularity isn’t necessarily as awesome as one might think!

  19. Estelle says:

    I’m not normally one to pick up historical fiction. I’m always afraid it’s going to be boring, but then I do and it works out all right. Really looking forward to this one. And I loved that quote that you picked!

  20. Mariya says:

    I am so glad you liked this book. I myself am really looking forward to reading it but there are so many mixed reviews on this book.

    • Christina says:

      The reviews have been very mixed, even down to the elements that people liked and didn’t. *shrugs* I guess you should just give it a try and DNF if it’s not working for you.

  21. Isa says:

    I’ve had Between Shades of Grey on my wishlist for so long now but I have yet to buy it. Ruta Sepetys sounds like such an amazing author. I like that her writing can take you to the time she’s writing about and that the romance is so little. I’m not sure if which one of her books I should read first but I’ll definitely pick one of them up soon.

    • Christina says:

      Ruta Sepetys is seriously talented and I love how unique the subject matter of both her books is for YA. As for which to read first, I’d go with whichever plot sounds more interesting to you. From what I can tell, those with a big interest in the gulag system, like myself, preferred BSoG, but that most others preferred Out of the Easy. I would say BSoG is a bit darker. Can’t go wrong with either though!

  22. Stephanie says:

    I loved Between Shades of Grey and so I knew I wanted to keep an eye out for any other books she would write. I was excited when I first heard about this one, because I thought it sounded really interesting. I am excited to read it, and I am glad you liked it!

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