It's 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie Moraine 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. (Amazon)
Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek
OUT OF THE EASY chronicles the life of seventeen-year-old Josie in 1950s New Orleans. Saddled with the reputation of a prostitute's daughter, Josie yearns for a better life. However, when a murder occurs, Josie is embroiled in a police investigation that will challenge her morals and allegiances.
Out of the Easy instantly pulls you into the seedy underbelly of New Orleans, where secrets abound and characters are as full and rich as a bowl of gumbo. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) The main character, Josie, is mature, interesting, and tough-as-nails. You can't help but root for her as she does anything she can not to end up like her mother. The supporting characters are just as fascinating. Two to look out for include: Cokie, the cab driver with a heart of gold, who wants the best for Josie, and Willie, the brothel madam, who is sassy, unexpectedly likable, and more of a mother figure than Josie's ever had. The characters carry the plot effortlessly, keeping you company as the mystery of another character's death unravels.
After reading Sepetys's first novel, Between Shades of Gray, I was worried Out of the Easy wouldn't compare. However, Sepetys proves with her second novel that she is a master of YA historical fiction. It is almost not worth comparing the two novels, because the settings and characters are so different. Sepetys's novels are like time machines: she can effortlessly recreate any historical time period and make you believe you were there. If you love historical fiction novels and aren't afraid of a little grit, be sure to pick this one up.
Market: YA historical fiction
Violence: Allusions to crime (the central murder, gang activity, the protagonist carries a gun, etc.)
Language: Mild--mostly cruel barbs from Josie's mother
Sensuality: The novel's main setting is a brothel, so the sexual
undertones and innuendos are pretty unavoidable. However, nothing is too explicit for the age group, and Josie's determination to rise about this lifestyle overrides any possible glamorization of prostitution.
Adult Themes: Identity/family struggle, poverty, prostitution, education, murder