Book: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, Penguin Audio, Feb. 12, 2013
Book Info: YA Historical Fiction, Audiobook received for review from Penguin Audio and Audiobook Jukebox. Running time: 9 hrs, 51 mins. Read by: Lauren Fortgang. Also available in HC, 352 pages from Philomel.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I’m a big fan of this authors Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with that other Shades of Gray) and was excited to check out her new novel. This is quite a departure for Ruta Sepetys and I was curious to see what she would do with it. Historical is not my category of choice, but Out of the Easy’s New Orleans 50s setting was an easy sell for me. Sepetys weaves a great story and uses the Bayou setting to good advantage along with a cast of colorful characters. I’d read more historical if they read as easy as Out of the Easy.
Josie Moraine is a street-smart 17-year old who is wise beyond her years. She’s the daughter of a brothel prostitute and not high on her list of priorities. The brothel madam Willie is in fact more of a maternal figure to her. Josie works in a bookstore and lives alone in a room upstairs. It’s her dream to go to college and escape the Big Easy. Josie gets caught up in the mystery of a stranger’s death though that puts her future plans at risk.
Even though Out of the Easy takes place in the past, the contemporary theme is relatable to today’s reader. Obviously Josie hasn’t had an easy life, and her mom is a nightmare. But Josie is pretty tough and self-reliant, not that she had a choice in the matter. College is out of reach for a lot of teens in the best of circumstances but Josie has even more of an uphill battle to climb. She has a lot to worry about in her daily life, and now gets into some sticky business with her love life as well. Along with the mysterious death, there’s a lot going on in Out of the Easy.
The characters really stand out in this novel. Josie especially is root worthy and you want things to go her way for once. She is a spunky go-getter that is easy to like. I enjoyed the makeshift family she has supporting her, when she has been so letdown by her blood family.
Sometimes historical reads are slow paced for me, but Out of the Easy read quickly and kept me entertained. The character voices are strong and full of life and the historical details ring true. I was thinking about the characters and that they have shades of gray to them much like the title of Sepetys debut. You wouldn’t think to find so many sympathetic characters in the corrupt world of this novel but Sepetys does open your mind with her portrayal.
Narrator Lauren Fortgang reads the audiobook. It is my first time listening to this reader, though she has a lot of audiobook experience under her belt. Fortgang expertly conveys Josie’s tough yet vulnerable nature and puts a spicy, rich tone into her reading. The flavor of New Orleans comes through the audiobook and there’s a lot of attention to detail put into each character. In Fortgang’s hands the 1950 setting comes alive with personality. I do think the audiobook format gives the story that something extra and it’s a treat to listen to. The author talks about all the research she put into writing this book at the conclusion of the audiobook.
This is my second 5-star read of the year, and I think it will appeal to fans of Ruta Sepetys, and fans of New Orleans centered noir. Maybe I haven’t given historical a fair shake in the past, but I’m open to trying out some more and seeing what’s next from Sepetys.
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