Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, 9/10

It’s best to be careful with one’s reputation. Once you have one, it’s hard to break out of it.

Josie Moraine knows all about reputations. Ever since she was a little girl, she’s been teased and whispered about behind her back, forcing to endure the snickers and criticizing looks every time she walks by. And what’s most unfair is that it isn’t even her fault.

Her mother, a rather ditzy, irresponsible woman, works at the local brothel, which isn’t exactly the best occupation for “Bring Your Child to Work” Day.

Despite the disadvantages she faces, Josie is determined to attend Smith, a prestige college located (thankfully) outside of the French Quarter where she lives. Though self-taught and exceptionally bright, Josie does not hold the impressive resume of extracurricular activities other candidates for the school possess, besides the fact that she works part-time at the local bookshop and cleans the brothel her mother is employed at, but those, especially the last, are hardly things worth noting in a college application.

Throughout the book, we follow Josie’s struggle to achieve her dreams amidst the chaos in her life. It doesn’t help when she’s constantly watching her back for Cincinnati, a patron of her mother who threatens to seek revenge for a previous encounter he and Josie had. Intertwined in the plot are the confusions of young love and a murder case that only adds to life’s maneuvers at snatching Smith away.

Out of the Easy evokes a slew of strong emotions with every chapter. Whether you’re smiling in mirth, clutching your chest after a particularly tragic turn of events, or cringing in revulsion, you don’t want to stop reading. Sepetys flawlessly imitates the raw, sarcastic voice of a teenage heroine trying to find her place in the unforgiving world of 1950s New Orleans. The cast is marvelous, with distinct and memorable characters like Willie Woodley, the brusque owner of the brothel with a dry sense of humor, or Jesse Thiery, the dreamy, mysterious leather-jacket-wearing boy who takes an interest in Josie. A common inside joke throughout the novel is the phrase “salted peanuts”, which is used to describe Josie when compared to the rich Uptown folk (much like the people at Smith) who are called “petit fours”.

One trait about Out of the Easy that stands out and makes it such a joy to read are the ovation-worthy quotes Sepetys writes.  One of my favorites is: “We all laced together-a brothel madam, an English professor, a mute cook, a quadroon cabbie, and me, the girl carrying a bucket of lies and throwing them like confetti” (Sepetys 242).

Sepetys uses an extensive range of allegory, one example being when Josie describes an event where she tries to clean a stain on the floor, but fails: “Some things just won’t go away, no matter how hard you scrub” (Sepetys 35). The author also uses forms of similes and foreshadowing, such as comparing Josie to salted peanuts and hinting at Cincinnati’s return. Out of the Easy is a great book for anyone, adolescents and adults alike, male and female. For anyone who can relate to self-discovery and the journey of pursuing one’s dreams, or simply anyone who is looking for a fun, meaningful book to read, I would definitely and most surely recommend Out of the Easy. 

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