Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys intrigued me for many reasons. For one, it is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the 1950’s. It is also a murder mystery and a coming of age story. The combination of it all together in one book had me raising an eyebrow.
Our main character is Josie Moraine… the daughter of a prostitute. She is a smart girl who did very well in high school, but she doesn’t the money to go to college. She could go to a decent college in New Orleans, but everyone knows her mother’s “career” and she’s tired of being judged for her mother’s actions. More than anything she wants to leave New Orleans and start over. Her plans to leave town are suddenly interrupted when she gets caught up in a murder case and a trail of little white lies.
Despite the novel dealing with prostitution it was kept classy. Of course there were references to the “business,” but I never found it disgusting and it wasn’t very detailed. The important part of the novel didn’t deal with prostitution. It was merely part of what was tying Josie down and making her life difficult. How she grew, overcame her mother’s reputation, and her financial situation was the meat of the novel. Josie wanted a better life for herself more than anything. She was a believable character with flaws and she made mistakes. As the novel progressed she learned to stand up for herself and overcame obstacles with the help of a colorful cast of characters.
All of the characters were well written. Josie was great, but the supporting cast really won my heart. I loved the way Sepetys portrayed her characters. She wrote them in a way that captured their small movements- the way they chew gum, smoke a cigarette, or glance around- and it succeeded in bringing them to life. The only thing I didn’t like about the characterization was the small love triangle. However, I did like the resolution in the end. I think my main issue is that I’m a little tired of young adult romance. The feelings the characters had made sense, but the story didn’t absolutely need it to feel complete.
I really wanted to know what would happen to Josie and her personal problems, but the murder mystery part of the novel unfolded rather slowly. I was reading along and wondering when I’d hear more about the murder. Then suddenly a newspaper article would crop up and mention a new tidbit of information. That’s fine of course, but from the blurb on the book I was expecting more of the mystery and less of the coming of age story. That is not necessarily a bad thing because it was a wonderful heartfelt story that I really, really enjoyed. My expectations were a little off, but I was teary eyed by the end. I loved the book and I will definitely be checking out Sepetys’s previous novel and her new release coming soon!