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.So Ruta Sepetys’s first book, “Between Shades of Gray,” is one of those books that I feel pretty much everyone should read. It’s about Stalin’s purges of the Baltic States during the 1940s, which is a topic I don’t think many people are aware of. Plus the story and writing are totally engrossing. So that’s why I picked up Sepetys’s second book, “Out of the Easy.” Like the first book, this second book has a nontraditional YA setting, but this time it’s 1950s New Orleans and our heroine is 17-year-old Josie, the daughter of a prostitute. For some reason, based on the book’s summary, I was expecting this book to be more of a mystery, with Josie working to solve the murder. But it’s not really like that at all. The focus of the book is on Josie’s attempts to get out of New Orleans and the uphill battle she has to fight to even get the slightest chance of doing so.
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.
One of the things I really appreciated about Josie is that although she’s trying so hard to rise above her circumstances to make more of her life, she doesn’t look down on or feel embarrassed by the people in the life that she’s trying to escape. She remains close to the brothel madam who essentially brought her up and the cab driver who’s her surrogate father. She doesn’t ever start thinking she’s better than them just because she doesn’t want their life, and I respected that.
But here’s the thing: although this book was solid and generally well done, I felt like it was missing that spark that takes a book from “solid” to something special. I’m not even sure what that spark that I wanted would’ve been. Maybe a more vibrant portrait of what New Orleans was like in the 1950s. Maybe more chemistry between Josie and the cute auto mechanic. Maybe more time spent on the murder mystery aspect. Maybe not quite so easy of an ending. Maybe all of those things, or maybe something completely different that I can’t quite put my finger on. All I know is that I felt like this book was lacking a heart—something to take an adequate story and bring it to life in a way that I could feel invested in.
Overall, an interesting book with a unique setting and main character. Despite my criticisms above, I did enjoy the book and felt that it was worth my time—I just didn’t feel that level of connection I need to really love a book.
Rating: 3.5 / 5