Tuesday, May 7, 2013

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

One of the best YA historicals I’ve read since I started blogging is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. It had great characters, a compelling plot, and taught me a lot about an important historical event–everything I hope for from historical fiction. So I was thrilled to see a new Sepetys book had been released: Out of the Easy.

This book is set in an entirely different location and time period and has an entirely different tone. It’s more of a YA noir/crime historical. It reminds me a bit of What I Saw and How I Lied or of Strings Attached by Judy Blundell.

In Out of the Easy, the seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine lives on the fringes of the New Orleans underworld. Her mother, one of the most worthless maternal specimens ever to grace a page, is a lying manipulative thief and a prostitute. She would have abandoned Josie long ago, except that Josie is useful to her. Josie does not live at the brothel with her mother. She fled to a bookstore where the kindly owner lets her sleep in an office he converted to a small bedroom for her. Josie and the owner’s son, Patrick, have been bestfriends and co-workers for years.

There are other important characters. Willie, the brothel owner, is a tough-minded, warm-hearted business woman. She has been more of a mother to Josie than her own mother ever was. There is a driver/messenger who works for Willie named Cokie, who is Josie’s friend and protector. There are the various "girls" at the brothel–Josie knows them all pretty well since, besides working in the bookstore, she also cleans the brothel in the mornings. And there is handsome Jesse Thierry, a nice young mechanic who frequently appears when she needs some support.

Josie is intelligent, well-read, and ambitious. She wants out of New Orleans. She is saving all her money to go to college someplace where she won’t be known as the prostitute’s daughter. With a support system of sorts in place, it seems possible, although unlikely, that Josie will find a way out. Except that on New Year’s Eve, a wealthy, cultured, kind man enters the bookstore and buys two books, chatting with Josie as he does so. She’s impressed with him. She likes him. The next day, she learns that he died mysteriously later that night.

Josie’s world, which was shady even under normal circumstances, unravels even more as the mysterious circumstances of his death stretch closer and closer to her.

Out of the Easy is a well-plotted YA historical. It’s not exactly a mystery, since it’s pretty clear from early on whodunnit. I thought some of the set-up of the plotting was a little strained, and some of it was a little predictable. (Are all madames tough business women with hearts of gold?) However, it’s interesting to watch Josie work her way through the tangles and I did root for her to succeed. Although not a must-read like Between Shades of Gray, it is entertaining!

I'm adding this to my Historical Fiction Challenge, hosted by Historical Tapestry. Come see what other historical fiction fans are reading!


  1. I also enjoyed this book...though as with Between Shades of Gray, "enjoyed" hardly feels like the right word. Both were so HARD to read--I didn't want to be part of Josie's world, as much as my heart ached for her...which was a good lesson in compassion. It's always easier to turn away from difficulty...

  2. I actually like the sound of this one more than Between Shades of Gray, even though I only own the latter. I'll keep a look out for this one :)

  3. I really loved this book-I wasn't sure based on the time period and setting but I ended up loving those elements the most, I think!