Realistic, well written, edgy, and with characters who live with you well after you're done reading.

Summary:

Josie Moraine (17) lives with her mother, a prostitute, at a brothel in the French Quarter in 1950s New Orleans. Her mother doesn't care much for Josie and is cruel. For her part, Josie wants nothing more than to put the Big Easy behind her and move to Massachusetts to attend Smith College.

To get the money she needs, Josie works at a bookstore and cleans the brothel in the mornings after the nightly parties. Since the age of ten, she’s been living alone in a room above the bookstore. Josie is smart and dedicated, but with her background and lack of money, she doesn’t know how she will get into Smith. Despite her mother's behavior, Josie has a lot of support. Willie Woodley, the madam of the brothel, Cokie (Willie's driver), and the girls who work for Willie treat her like family. Charlie Marlow, the bookstore owner, his son Patrick, and Jesse Thierry, a fellow high school student, all adore her.

When a well-to-do tourist is murdered in the French Quarter, Jessie is thrown right into the middle of the investigation. She sold a book to the dead man and his watch was found under her mother's bed. Could her mother really be a murderer?


BTSYA / Teen Reader (16):
This is my first book Ruta Sepetys book, and I can definitely tell why she is a notable name among YA historical fiction. Her description of the setting is rich and engrossing, and I could see myself in Josie’s place, living in the Quarter. I initially thought this novel was going to be like a classic film noir, what with the murder investigation mentioned on the back cover. But I found  it to be more of a coming-of-age story focused on Josie and how she changes and grows in response to various events. I was a little bit disappointed, but I still enjoyed reading about her journey. 

Part of why I liked reading about Josie’s journey is because of all the supporting characters: Patrick; Cokie; Willie and those working in her brothel; and Jesse all have their own personalities. They aren’t cardboard cutouts who are merely there to make the protagonist look good. They are essential to Josie’s conflict and solution, and I think Sepetys beautifully depicted their interactions with Josie. The supporting characters also show that family extends beyond biology; none of them are related to Josie, yet they love and support her regardless. Additionally, there is a love triangle between Josie, Patrick, and Jesse. I normally hate that trope, but I liked it in this context because 1) it wasn’t the center of the story; 2) it wasn’t the “Bad Boy vs. Childhood Best Friend” cliche found in most triangles; and 3) Josie’s relationships with Patrick and Jesse were realistic.

Readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this novel. Although Sepetys’s works are geared towards young adults, I think that adults will find that reading Out of the Easy is a pleasant experience as well. A word of caution for anyone who thinks the plot will revolve around a murder mystery: it won’t, but the story is great nevertheless.

BTSYA Volunteer Reader (41):
Beautiful!!! Realistic, well written, and edgy. Out of the Easy is a beautiful story of a young girl’s struggle to better herself. I love that through Josie’s journey the story emphasizes self-respect, believing in one’s self, and never giving up on one’s dreams. Josie will grab your attention and you will root for her to the end. The characters are well-thought-out and believable. They will stick with you well after the story ends.

It is an easy read but parents should be aware that much of the story revolves around a brothel. There is no explicit content but some strong language used to describe the sex-workers and men who visit them. Taking that into account I would recommend this story to high school age and older.

This historical fiction is a buy.


Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Never been to New Orleans? Out of the Easy will take you there and immerse you in the Big Easy from page 1 to the end ... and beyond. Great characters and a solid mystery will have readers rooting for Josie reaching her dream and wanting her to solve the mystery all at the same time.

Content Awareness Factors:

There is profanity. The story is set in a brothel, with a number of characters who are prostitutes. Although they are involved in the sex trade, there are no sex scenes in the book. Note: This is a young adult novel.

The 4th grade reading level does NOT represent the appropriate audience for this book.


Type of Book:
This is an historical fiction mystery set in 1950s New Orleans.
Educational Themes:

Josie narrates this story and 1950s New Orleans is seen from her perspective. How do you think other characters would write the story: Patrick Marlowe, Jesse, Willie Woodley?

Reading Level:
4.0
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
14 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
13 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's ages: 16, 41
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. The writing will draw you in and when you want a good read, you'll pull it from the shelf again.

Title Out of the Easy
Author Ruta Sepetys
Publisher Philomel Books, Imprint Penguin Young Readers Group © 2013
ISBN 9780399256929
Material Hard Cover
Cost $17.99
Genres Family, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Self Worth, 1940s & 1950s, Realism | Realistic Fiction
be the star you are Cybils
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