Monday, June 24, 2013

Audiobook Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

“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.” 
― Ruta SepetysOut of The Easy

  • Genre: Historical
  • Audiobook Length: 9 hour 51 minutes
  • Publication Date: February 12th 2013
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio / Philomel Books
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. When a book  opens with the line 'my mother's a prostitute' it is a sure sign this is something very different from the usual YA. Out of Easy is a historical novell that takes usto New Orleans' French Quarter in the 1950's. 

This book is one of a kind for me. I've noticed that even with the popularity of YA , most non-romance based historical novels with teenage girl narrators are either sold as adult or literay fiction. Just a few this year include She Rises by Kate Worsley , The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani and  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. It's actually kind of nice to see more historical books represented in the YA category

Our protagonist, 17-year-old Josie Moraine's life in 1950 isn't like the usual nostalgia we associate with the 50's.  With a flighty  prostitute for a mother, the only  parental figures in Josie's life are the strict hard as nails brothel madame,Willie Woodley and Cokie, the brothel's quadroon (mixed race) cab driver. Despite her upbringing Josie wants nothing more to attend a prestigious college in  New England, even if she is "salted peanuts" among all the "petit fours". But before she even begin to dream up a new life for herself a few events stand in her way; including a murder.

Throughout the story, Joise has some amazing character development as she deals with all the trials she is put through. Despite what challenges life has handed her she  has such a strong resolve to not be a working girl in the Quarter. Josie is accompanied by a great group of supporting characters. Sepetys side characters felt so authentic and each gave  a different perspective and take on the time.

Josie even has a few potential love interests in Patrick Marlowe, who works with her at the bookstore and Jesse Thierry, the leather-jacket-wearing-motorcycle-riding college student who calls her Motor City because he knows Josie was born in Detroit. But don't worry, there is no love triangle here. I think Patrick and Jesse are  used more to show two different sides of college boys in the 50's and don't necessarily compete for Josie.

This book touches on so many issues of class, identity, mental illness and of course prostitution in New Orleans. Sepetys talks about prostitution in this book in an way that isn't vulgar or inappropriate for YA. I can imagine the topic may be hard for someone to let a 14-year-old read, but Sepetys handles it in a smart way.  She does lean on the Hooker With a Heart of Gold at times, but keeps most of the discussion on the effects and representations of prostitution meaningful.

Lauren Fontgang is the perfect narrator for this audiobook, she hits all the Southern accents and New Orlean's drawl perfectly.Willie, the brothel mamdame is probably the strongest character in this novel and Lauren speaks life into her. I see on Audible that Lauren has over 250 audiobooks to her credit so she will definitely be a go to narrator for me in the future.

As with most historical fiction, I find myself in awe of the research Septeys puts into her novels, she has such an amazing approach to writing historical fiction. She visits the places she talks about, she spends time interviewing peopel and going through old news clips. Much of this book is based on the non-fiction book The Last Madame: A Life In The New Orleans Underworld by Christine Wiltz and Sepetys even went as far as to meet Wiltz and the pair have done book events together

This is a beautifully done audiobook--I didn't want it to end. Sepetys mixes a  historical and near literary writing narrative with all of the qualities of modern YA fiction creating an emotional and evocative story told by an expressive and talented voice narrator.


  1. I got this book at BEA last year and I still haven't read it. I can't believe it given how much I loved Ruta's first book. Kicking myself now. It seems like everyone raves about it just as much as you did.

  2. See, I saw her around at BEA last year too and I had heard about her book, Between Shades of Gray, but hadn't actually read it. I knew she was well known which is why I got this book, but I need to go back and read Between Shades of Gray.

  3. i've been wanting to read this for so long!

  4. This is gorgeous review Kat, you absolutely nailed just how much of an awesome job Sepetys did with this book. She managed to focus on so many different issues and yet still create a read which could appeal to so many different readers. I can't wait to read more of her books. Great review!

  5. This review took so long for me to write, it was hard to put into words. I'm glad you liked it.

  6. Great review! Your tweet totally caught my eye. I'm always on the lookout for a good YA historical.

  7. I love the setting of this one and I'm glad to hear the narrator was so perfect for it. :)

  8. Wow, I have heard so many great reviews on this and the ending sounds so mysterious... want list!

    Maycee (San Antonio Local SEO)


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