Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kid Konnection: Out of the Easy

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you an extremely entertaining novel about a teen girl finding her way in 1950s New Orleans.

Summary: 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. 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. -- Philomel

It's hard to believe that it's been almost two years since I reviewed BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys because I still remember so much about that novel. I loved the characters, the story, and the writing; and I couldn't wait to see what Ms. Sepetys would come up with next. Well, the wait is over! Her new novel is called OUT OF THE EASY, and I am thrilled to say that it didn't disappoint.

OUT OF THE EASY takes place in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950 and is seventeen year old Josie Moraine's story about growing up as the daughter of a prostitute. Josie works at a bookstore and cleans the brothel, hoping to make enough money to one day go to college; however, when a suspicious murder occurs, Josie finds herself caught up in the middle of the investigation.

I hesitate to tell you much more about OUT OF THE EASY because I do think it's best to experience Josie's story on your own. What I can say is that the novel is chock full of intriguing characters and plenty of surprises. While I absolutely adored Josie's character (for so many reasons), I have to say that the plot of the novel was equally terrific. Truly, this book had it all -- great characters, suspense, an element of mystery, and even some romance.

OUT OF THE EASY is one of those books that I couldn't put down. In fact, I started it late one afternoon and didn't come up for air until I finished it. It was that good! As an adult, I found many wonderful things about this story including the story's valuable messages, but I truly can say that I think the appeal for teen girls will be huge. Josie is a fantastic character and I do think girls will relate to her!

It's hard to read OUT OF THE EASY and not fall in love with Josie. Even though my heart broke for her because of her lack of parental support (among other things), I found that she was one of the strongest young characters that I've ever come across. She was smart and resourceful -- no surprise given the life she led, yet she also had a sense of naivete about her that made her so real to me. I honestly cared about Josie and felt her joys and pain!

There were also some great secondary characters in this story. Josie's mother was a prostitute and such a lost soul. Having said that, she was extremely selfish and I felt little, if any, sympathy towards her... but she was interesting! In addition, there was Josie's male friends/love interests as well as the bookstore owner who was experiencing dementia. And probably my favorite character (outside of Josie of course!) was Willie, the madam of the brothel where Josie and her mother worked. Willie was tough and had some street smarts for sure, but she served as Josie's surrogate mother and she actually showed Josie more love and guidance than her real mother.

In addition to all of the interesting characters, the plot of OUT OF THE EASY was extremely intriguing. I cared about Josie and her plight to get into an elite college, but it was her involvement with the murder that really captured my interest. When Josie learns that a man she met earlier in the day was murdered in a French Quarter bar, she begins her own investigation of sorts and finds herself caught up in the middle of a police investigation. To make things even more interesting, she is suddenly associating with mobsters and debts. I was hooked on this part of the story and loved all of the action and suspense!

OUT OF THE EASY would make a great book club selection for adult or teen book clubs! The book is extremely readable, but it also touches upon some serious issues and has some valuable messages. Some of the themes you might want to explore include love, parent/child relationships, mental illness, first love, secrets, obligations, and dreams. In addition, you might want to discuss how choices play an important role in our lives.

I loved OUT OF THE EASY and highly recommend it! Fantastic book!!!

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!  


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't know why I haven't read this yet - I have it!

My Kid Konnection book today is for Women's History Month - a book about Harriet Tubman illustrated by Kadir Nelson (what do you MEAN I have a crush on Kadir Nelson?!!!)

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I just requested this one on audiobook and I can't wait to listen to it! So far, all I've read are glowing reviews.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sorry, first Mr. Linky was an incorrect link! :--)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Between Shades was an incredible book, and I have this one on my shelves. Who knows when I will get to it, as I am currently trying to get all the UCF Book Festival highlights read and also She Reads. I WILL read it though, and have high expectations.

bermudaonion said...

You know how much I love Ruta Sepetys! I've got to get hold of this book! It's on my list to pick up the next time I'm at the bookstore.

Beth F said...

I haven't read either book yet but I think I really need to add her to my list.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Great review-I absolutely devoured this book too and reading your review just reminded me all over again how much I loved this.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Very much looking forward to this, especially after my years living southwest of NOLA. Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much.