Book Report for Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Graded By: Meghan Miller

Cover Story: Injustice!
BFF Charm: Platinum
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Perfect Balance
Bonus Factors: New Orleans, Kickass Gram, Bookstores

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Relationship Status: Lifelong Commitment

Cover Story: Injustice!

Out of the Easy

Come on, guys! Where's the gorgeous cover treatment Sepetys got for Between Shades of Gray? The stark imagery, the balance, the artistry? Instead, we get a half-assed "Look what we did!" metaphor here, with the girl hiding behind the birdcage (at least it's not gilded). Even just a striking historical photograph of the French Quarter the day after Mardi Gras, or on New Year's Day, would have been better.

The Deal:

Josie's lived in New Orleans since she was a little girl, and she's desperate to get out. You would be too, if your mother was a soulless hooker and you spent your mornings cleaning a whorehouse. The bright spot in Josie's life is her job at Marlowe's bookstore, where she's lived alone in an upstairs room since she was a preteen and where she works with her best friend and the owner's son, Patrick. When a handsome, wealthy Memphis tourist visits the bookshop and inspires Josie to look beyond her narrow Quarter existence and aim for college, her life changes in surprising—and dangerous—ways.

BFF Charm: Platinum

BFF Platinum

Oh, Josie-Jo-Josephine, I happily gave you my platinum charm the minute we met. Like Charlotte, the niece of an Uptown family who encourages your application to Smith College, I could see you were born with style. I don't care that your momma's a hooker, and your closest guardians are a quadroon cabbie (Cokie, ILU!!) and a hardened brothel madam. I don't care that you only own one nice dress and live upstairs in the bookshop and clean the whorehouse where your mother works. You're whipsmart and funny and loyal, and I just want to hug you and talk about books and soothe your oft-broken heart and show you just how wonderful you are—and show you that I'm not the only one who sees it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Josie's attraction to both Patrick and Jesse, a local Quarter boy, is a delicious triangle that, well…no spoilers, but let's just take a minute to remember I don't like triangles, even well-executed ones. The complex emotions and ties among the three teenagers is exquisite, and then there's Jesse. At first, when he showed up in jeans and boots (in the 1950s), I pegged him as a classic Mysterious Loner Dude, but there's nothing mysterious or loner about him and his motorcycle. He's an open book, and let me tell you, that book is a pageturner. As much as I like Patrick, and I can totally understand what Josie sees in that handsome, loyal, funny boy, it was no problem for me to settle on Jesse immediately.

Talky Talk: Perfect Balance

I have to confess, I wasn't sure about this book. I adored Between Shades of Gray, but I was a little dubious about Sepetys' switch to another historical period. It wasn't that I didn't think she could handle it—the woman's a mother-effing WRITER—but the choice to go historical again, in a wildly different direction from Gray, rather than go contemporary, was interesting. I also am just not terribly interested in New Orleans, and while I do like the post-war period, I tend not to read much midcentury historical fiction. Anyway, Sepetys totally surprised me, and now that I think about it, I don't know why it was such a surprise. Her gift for creating flawed and sympathetic characters—even the villains mostly have redeeming qualities—is transferrable to any time or place. She handles dialect lightly, indicating characters' unique voices without trying to channel Mark Twain, and she deftly plays out several different lines of tension without letting any one unnecessarily overshadow another and touches on issues in a thoughtful way without letting them sidetrack her. Read this book, is what I'm saying here.

Bonus Factor: New Orleans

New Orlean

I haven't been to New Orleans since college, longer ago than I'd like to admit here, and before I read the book, I was okay with that. Really. I knew there was more to the city than Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but I didn't think about it. After this book—set entirely in the Quarter, strangely—I know I'd fall in love with the history and culture if I visited again.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gram

Kickass Gram

Willie the Madam isn't Josie's grandmother, she's the madam of the whorehouse where Josie's mother works, and she's known Jo since she was knee-high to a June bug. She's not exactly a hooker with a heart of gold, unless you want to take that to mean a hooker with her eye firmly fixed on the bottom line, but she wants nothing but the best for Josie and will go to extremes to get it. She also doesn't take any crap from Josie, and gives her all the verbal smacks upside the head the girl needs until Josie figures out what she needs to figure.

Bonus Factor: Bookstores

Bookstores

I love that Josie works in a bookstore with the appropriately Dickensian name of Marlowe's (it's the name of the owner). She and Patrick have some funny games they play with their customers that remind me of working in libraries, and all the literary references are like little inside jokes between Sepetys and me. They're subtle and teen-accessible, but still enough to make my nerd heart happy. It's also nice to read a book where the names dropped are E.M. Forster and Keats, and not Prada or Kardashian.

Casting Call:

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence as Josie

Ethan Peck

Ethan Peck as Jesse

Ed Speelers

Ed Speelers as Patrick

Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett as Willie

Relationship Status: Lifelong Commitment

Between Shades of Gray ensured I'd read this book, but this book ensured I'd wait on pins and needles for each one of her books forever and ever, amen.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. Out of the Easy will be available February 12.