Friday, April 26, 2013

[Review] Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy 

Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 07/03/2013
Publisher: Penguin (Puffin)
Pages: 352

Violence Sexual ContentProfanity

My Rating: 
Powerful + unforgettable!

My thoughts

Following Ruta Sepetys’ debut Between Shades of Grey I was expecting something raw and powerful, a book that, once I’d finished reading the last page I’d feel like my life had been irrevocably changed for ever. It’s such a pleasure when expectations are met with reality which is the case here. Out of the Easy is extremely different to Sepetys’ debut novel, but one major similarity shines through—there is a bleak tone to the novel and yet there resonates a promise of hope.
"Decisions, they shape our destiny."

Out of the Easy follows the life of seventeen-year-old Josie Morraine, who lives in the Quarter of New Orleans in the 1940s-50s. Her mother is a prostitute. Josie has had to grow up alongside her morally bankrupt ways, having to endure the nights spent alone in a murky hotel room while her mother sells her body to get nice things. This is why at age seventeen she has now made a home above the bookshop she works at. This is why she escapes into literature and indulges herself in fantasies about the father she has never known. This is why she wants to escape the Big Easy; she wants to go to university (college), one that’s far away from here. But as the daughter of a prostitute the odds are against her. With her unerring determination and the support from her best friend Patrick and Charlotte, her new friend from Uptown, maybe she’ll finally get her wish.

I adore these characters! I allowed myself to grow attached to them and so it was hard to see such horrible things happen to them. Josie is the best kind of heroine. She’s salty peanuts. It is extremely easy to imagine that she is a friend I know, or even fragments of myself. Sepetys allows the reader to get into her head and connect with her character. I rooted for her all the way through; I cried when things started to go bad; I smiled or laughed when glimmers of hope or humour came her way. I had a connection to this fictional character such as I have not found in many other books, which makes my experience with the book that much more special.

There’s Patrick, her best friend, fellow literary geek and bookshop co-worker/son of the owner. He assumes so many roles—he’s also caring for his renowned author and father, Charlie, whose brain has been disturbed in his old age. He’s so smart and kind and everything that represents comfort for Josie. Which means that their developing relationship and proposed future together should come as no surprise. But another boy around the Quarter has his eye on Josie. And yes, love triangles normally drive me up the wall BUT it doesn’t feel like a gimmick or an excuse for hot love interests. Rather, it serves as a catapult for Josie's development. The feelings associated with the love triangle felt very true to life, bringing more realism to it than taking it away.

Willie, the owner of the local whorehouse, is complex, and my feelings about her are confusing. Charlotte, Josie’s new friend from Uptown, jump-starts Josie’s pursuit for a better life. Cokie is the family driver, and the only man with whom Josie feels truly safe, toffee-coloured skin be damned.

Historical YA fiction is one of my true loves. In Out of the Easy I walked the streets of New Orleans, pistol rested on my thigh, on high alert. I visited the Marlowes' bookstore filled with glorious hardcover editions, from Dickens and Keats to romance. The writing is subtle and easy to read. I would whole-heartedly and without hesitation recommend Sepetys to people who don't normally venture into historical fiction titles, especially YA readers.

This is the kind of book I cherish. It's the kind of book I understand. Sepetys does historical fiction extremely well. Although I can't personally know how it all felt for Josie (or Lena in BSoG), they are still relatable characters. Sepetys intersperses humanity in all of her characters so that they are not just words on the pages. They feel real. Their emotions and thoughts and backgrounds are real, which just makes having to say goodbye more difficult to do. I can't say if this book will work for you. All I can say is it worked for me.


First lines:

My mother's a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.

Favourite quotes:

"One day when I was fourteen, I told Charlie that I hated Mother. 'Don’t hate her, Jo,' he told me. 'Feel sorry for her. She’s not near as smart as you. She wasn’t born with your compass, so she wanders around, bumping into all sorts of walls. That’s sad.' (37, Charlie)

"'Let me tell you something ‘bout those rich folk,' said Cokie. 'They got everything that money can buy, their bank accounts are fat, but they ain’t happy. They ain’t ever gone be happy. You know why? They soul broke. And money can’t fix that, no sir….' (83, Cokie)

"'Sometimes we set off down a road thinkin’ we’re goin’ one place and we end up another. But that’s okay. The important thing is to start.' (163, Cokie)

"Shelves without books were lonely and just plain wrong. (281, Josie)




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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Book Tune - Why I chose "Power and Control"
It would have been really easy to just pick a song based on Josie's desires to break away from the Quarter (like Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway), but I chose this song because it's so perfect in explaining the gender kind of power play that goes on. I feel like Josie's mother feels in control, by using her body to get what she wants, but also it is this surety that will eventually be her downfall. Same with the girls in Willie's whorehouse. But also, Josie is growing out and guys are starting to take notice. And there's this one scene where Josie is expected to be all glammed up and she's going to meet this powerful guy so that she can take one more step towards getting into university, and this song kind of just plays in my head.

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