"I finished my curls and decided to read a bit
until the merriment died down outside.
reading was the only thing that blocked out Mother,
and allowed me to experience life outside New Orleans.
I leapt eagerly into books.
The characters' lives were so much more interesting
than the lonely heartbeat of my own."
--Ruta Sepetys, Out of the Easy
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Philomel, 352 pages
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
I liked this book. Really, really, really, really, REALLY liked this book. Ruta Sepetys just has this way of writing that makes you fall headfirst into the story and the characters. I was, again, immediately intrigued by this story and couldn't wait to keep reading. I just love, love, LOVE her writing. This story takes place in New Orleans in 1950 and I don't think I've ever read a book in this time period. Adored. And the writing about the city? Its got its ugly parts, sure, but I still loved the southern vibe and down and dirty attitudes of all the characters.
The first sentence of this book may be the best first line of a book...ever. I will not tell you what it is. Go pick it up and read it. Seriously. I laughed out lout in the first 15 seconds. I knew we were going to do well from this point forward. So Josie is 17, works in a bookstore, and just trying to figure out what she wants out of life without her mother making her life miserable. Josie's mother works in a brothel...yep, her mother is a prostitute and a piece of work beyond that. This woman is unbelievable...no really, you will not believe the stuff she pulls and does to her poor daughter. Willie is the madam of the house and is probably the most interesting character. This woman doesn't take no shit from nobody and makes no excuses about it. LOVED her. She knows absolutely everything that goes on in her city and exactly what to do in every situation. Not gonna lie. I was pretty much in awe of this character for the entire book. I wanted a little Willie in my personality. Josie and Willie get along really well and their dynamic was also another favorite part of the story. They just worked so well together and cared about each other so much. Especially because Josie's mother was so useless, Willie was a phenomenal character for Josie to bond with.
There are a lot of other characters in this book but not confusingly so. Cokie is a driver and is sooooo adorable. He has a heart of gold and loves Josie like she was his own. I adored him. Patrick is the son of the bookstore owner and they have a great friendship. Jesse is the motorcycle riding resident heart throb from the wrong side of the track...*swoon*. And there's a gaggle of whores that make up the house. Sweety and Dora were my favorite. They were sugar and spice respectively, hilarious and really brought a lot of fun to the story. They had me laughing out loud and I couldn't get enough of these skanks.
The writing, again, is amazing. You really feel New Orleans and the way she describes the girls, the house, and certain situations is just beyond funny. I was actually shocked at some of the blunt dialogue and descriptions she wrote about. I mean, yes it is a brothel but I was still like whoa! Did she really just say that? I mean, it was amazing because I was dying in laughter. I loved reading about the dynamics of the house and how Josie interacted with the girls and Willie.
The plot was freakin' awesome. Like I've said before, I pride myself on being able to kind of sense where the plot will go. This story had none of that for me. I really had NO idea what was going to happen next. Loved this. No matter what the situation though, Josie always acted in a level-headed way and kept her cool. She was always a cucumber. So badass. And she loved books!! What?! She adored literature and spoke intelligently about so many fantastic books from this time. I loved that she wanted to be cultured and go to college and get out of her situation with her mother. I fell in love with her strength against all odds and her fight to make her life her own. She is a kickass chick for sure.
I think that Ruta's writing is something to write home about. Her prose is vivid and alive and you really feel like you are in the story with the characters. New Orleans is a character in itself and completely rounds out the cast of other amazing players.
Should You Read? Heck frickin' yes. While her other book Between Shades of Gray is very deep and emotionally exhausting (in a good way, of course), this book has deep issues but is in a much more lighthearted nature. If you love reading a great plot in a city that makes it feel like another character, I'd grab this one up right quick.