Cross over, Gothic, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Poignant Coming-of-Age Story, Positive Gay Characters, Summer Reads, YA

Once Upon a Time in N’awlins: Out of the Easy Review

out of the easy

Forgive the hiatus. I’ve been busy summering, and by summering I mean working, writing, reading, and New Yorking (a positively gushy review of Matilda the Musical coming soon!) I have read some fantastic new novels that I can’t wait to share with you, including this one. There’s something about New Orleans. I seem to have read a number of books set in this misty, magical, drama-soaked state lately. Out of the Easy was an engaging mystery and coming of age story that went down as smoothly as a mojito on a hot day.

Josie is the hardworking, bookish daughter of an unreliable and unloving New Orleans prostitute. She has lived on her own in a small apartment above the bookstore where she works, putting as much distance between her and her mother as she can. She dreams of going to college, a prospect that seems more possible when she befriends Smith student, Charlotte . But then a customer of hers turns up dead, and Josie has a terrible feeling that her mother is somehow connected to the crime.

Out of the Easy would make a fantastic mini-series.  It has a very film noir film to it, featuring slimy cads, savvy ladies of the night, femme fatales, and gangsters. 1950s New Orleans is vividly recreated by author Ruta Sepetys, who includes a wide ranging cast of memorable characters.  Formidable madam Willie is a fascinating character; tough as nails, hard to like, but smart, savvy, and surprisingly kind-hearted. Her relationship with Josie is delightfully complicated. I was particularly interested in the business end of the brothel, which reminded me of the adult novel The Virgin Cure by Canuck Amy McKay.

Josie is a wonderful character. Although she wants nothing more than being different from her conniving, manipulative mother, she is able to tap into her considerable charms in order to further her investigation and her station in life. She is constantly questioning class, ethics, and what it takes to further herself in life. She is not perfect, but is a very real girl dealing with particularly intimidating obstacles. She has a lot of in common with the heroines of literature she loves so much (Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, etc).

Fans of mystery, atmospheric novels, and all things New Orleans will sink right into this steamy tale. And for those readers who like a touch of lust in their YA, there is a mechanic with messy hair and a heart of gold to keep your heart rate up.

Out of the Easy is available now in hardcover from Penguin Canada.

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