Book Review of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Posted January 31, 2013 by Kara in Uncategorized / 25 Comments

Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
Pages: 348
Genre: Young Adult-Historical
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Description from GoodreadsIt’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.

Review: Characters can make or break a novel. It is my opinion that unlikable characters can completely ruin a book no matter how well-written the plot is, but wonderful characters can make a book mesmerizing even if the story is mediocre. Not that the story is mediocre in Out of the Easy because it’s not. But it doesn’t have a very linear plot. It’s not all that mysterious and/or riveting as I expected it to be. But the characters? Well, they make this novel. 

I felt very similar about this novel as I did about Sharon Cameron’s The Dark Unwinding. That book didn’t have the most exciting plot either. But I fell in love with the characters just like I did with the ones in this novel. There’s something about endearing senior citizens in books that always manages to warm my heart. In this book, the name of the character is Willie. It’s funny because from the way Willie is introduced in the book you would never know it. But she grows on you. I never thought I would say that I grew a huge heart for a brothel madam, but I did. 

The two love interests (sort of) in the book were similarly well-developed and incredibly likable. I wouldn’t say there was a love triangle though, and despite the fact there are two boys vying for the protagonist’s affections, romance is not the main focus in this book at all.

Instead, there is a mystery to solve. But this is kind of where I ran into problems with the book. Because the plot wasn’t all that riveting and neither was the mystery. It was interesting enough, but there are really no surprises here. I figured out who committed the murder pretty much from the very beginning and it’s not all that shocking. 

But the main reason this wasn’t a 5 star read for me was because I felt the book lacked a focus. What WAS the main point here? Was it the mystery? Was it the relationships? Was it the crappy mother-daughter relationship? Not sure. Everything about the book lacked focus. 

What you need to know is that Josie hates New Orleans. She has a very unstable and dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Her mom is a prostitute at a brothel on Conti Street run by a madam named Willie who ends up being quite the character. Josie works at a used bookshop in the city and she wants to go to college more than anything, but with the way her mother is, any dreams Josie has she has to make come true on her own. 

A man comes into the bookshop and then that very same evening, something very bad happens. And that’s where our story truly begins. But it doesn’t because it’s not all that much of a mystery. Meh. I don’t know what else to say. 

The writing was interesting and I liked the way it was styled, but I almost felt it was too simple, and for a setting like New Orleans, I certainly expected it to be more atmospheric than it was. I can say that I really loved the voice of Josie and felt her character was brilliantly rendered. 

So in the end, I was left feeling a bit confused. I expected to be blown away by this book and I was highly anticipating it, but I was let down a little bit. I liked it enough and I do think it will find an audience, but alas it was not what I expected it to be. 

I think it is important to mention that this book made me sob my freaking eyes out at the end. There is something that comes up that I found incredibly shocking and didn’t see it coming though I suppose I should have now in hindsight. Still, in the moment it caught me by surprise. 

Do I recommend it? I guess. With reservations. If you like really strong characters, I think you will enjoy the novel. But if you are looking for a plot that keeps you turning pages late into the night, I’d give this one a pass.

3/5 Dragons

25 responses to “Book Review of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

  1. It’s a relief to hear that there’s no love triangle in this! I feel like this book has been getting a lot more mixed reviews than the first novel this author wrote, which I still have to read, so I’ll definitely be picking it up soon to check out this authors style. I love character-driven tales though, so maybe I’ll enjoy this a little more than you did. Incredible review, Kara! 😀

    • There sort of is a triangle and there sort of isn’t. But I can’t explain this further without giving up spoilers.

      I still have to read Between Shades of Gray too.

  2. Sam

    I feel the same way about likeable and unlikeable characters! Particularly the main character. It’s near impossible for me to enjoy a book if I strongly dislike him or her. I’m glad the characters here made this book for you. It’s a shame it fell short of your expectations slightly, however… I’m curious about it, but I’ll be sure to keep your points in mind. Brilliant review, Kara!

  3. I really want to read this one. It’s too bad you weren’t sure what the main focus was. I’m not a fan of reading books like that. There’s a mystery but you spend the whole time reading about the relationships and then BAM at the end the mystery wraps up really nicely but it’s like the author forgot about the mystery for a big chunk of the novel. I love the idea of this taking place at a brothel and just a weird scenario to grow up in. Great review, love the honesty!

  4. Sorry you didn’t like this one as much as you had hoped-I fell head over heels in love with it, I think because of the characters and the emotions they brought up for me.

    • I’m so glad it was like that for you! Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t know. I think part of it was the author’s writing style. It was a little too simplistic for me.

  5. I’m very intrigued by this book, reviewers seem to either love it or are disappointed in it. I think it looks very interesting and unique, and I hope I get a chance to read it soon. I completely get what you say about how characters can make or break the novel, and I love that this book has great ones!

  6. Amy

    I’m a big character reader, but I still need a good plot too. The characters can’t be the only focus for me. I like the idea of this book. It sounds interesting, but it’s too bad that it didn’t quite work out. Fab review hon!

  7. Bizarrely, I am a fan of sobbing and characterization, so I think I’d be down with Out Of The Easy, like I know myself enough to know that what you’ve written as not entirely appealing to you makes it super appealing to me.

    I hope that made sense, because reading my comment back it sounds convoluted. OH WELL, ha!

  8. Okay, I wasn’t really interested in this book, but then you said there’s a shocking, sob-worthy ending. For some reason that always gets me. I am a sucker for tearjerker books.

    It’s disappointing about the atmosphere. I would expect the setting to come alive with a book set in New Orleans. Oh well. This is definitely one for the library. (Here’s hoping my cruddy library picks it up.)

    • Most people love this book so perhaps it is just me. The ending caught me by surprise. I suppose I should have seen it coming but I wasn’t analytically thinking this one out as I was reading it so I missed it.

      I hope you enjoy it whether you choose to get it from the library or buy it!

  9. Hmmm, I actually loved the setting and the atmosphere, I really liked the side characters, but also didn’t care about the mystery.

    It wasn’t what I was hoping for either, and I definitely liked Between Shades of Gray better, but I still really liked it.

  10. In general, I don’t feel like Sepetys would do too well with a typical action-intensive plot. Her debut novel was definitely character-focused and slow-paced, and maybe that lack of oomph was what kept me from falling in love with it. Anyway. Its good to hear that this novel isn’t too focused on romance, though, again, I feel like that’s Sepetys’s general MO (and a common theme in the genre itself). I’m waiting for YA paranormal to catch up to the fact that not all teenagers are interesting in dating. …and I’m digressing again. *sigh*

    ANYWAY. I like your thoughts on this. The strong characters vs. lack of focus is definitely a problem. I tend to enjoy the literary-type rambly novels, but I guess it really depends on how I feel about these characters. I’m interesting to compare thoughts now, though.

    • Yes, the romance is definitely not a focus. It’s an element in the book, sure, but I think it is nicely balanced.

      Totally agree. So sick of every YA book having a romance. It’s so not necessary.

      And so am I. Please link me to your review once you have finished!

  11. I’ve really been looking forward to this book ever since I read Between Shades of Gray. From your review, it definitely doesn’t sound perfect, but I have always been able to forgive bad plot a whole lot easier than I have been able to forgive bad characters, so I think I’ll still check it out. Great review, Kara!

  12. True, her characters were amazing. I lent the book to my friend along with some others like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Fire, Shadow and Bone, etc. She said that she really loved this one because of the characters. I thought that the others would make more of an impression on her as they did with me… but yeah. Also, yes, that ending. And Willie. And the mystery not being too much of a mystery.

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