I could not put this book down, starting it on Wednesday, pouring through it all day yesterday. I generally have a strict rule that between the hours of four and eight, I am nothing but a mom. I'm not a writer, I'm not a reader, I'm not anything but someone who makes food (hmm...), gives kids attention, reads to them (for them, not for me), helps with homework, plays games—someone who is completely focused on five little people. I normally don't do any reading at all until after nine at night.
But I did a lot of hiding in the bathroom yesterday. Then I hid in Calvin's room. Then I hid in Lucy's.
I could not put this book down.
Granted, I couldn't put Ruta Sepetys's first book, Between Shades of Gray, down, but this book was maybe, maybe, even better. Okay, it was better. Maybe even way better.
Out of the Easy is in some ways a rougher book than Between Shades of Gray. They are both historical fiction, the first about Lithuania in the first half of the 20th century, and Out of the Easy about post World War II New Orleans. The Big Easy. New Orleans at its roughest and dirtiest.
Josie's mother is a prostitute. Josie spends lots of time in brothels with murderers, madams, prostitutes, the mafia. Some parts of this book, the subject matter itself, might make people uncomfortable, and I would not recommend handing it off to your 14-18 year old until you've read it yourself, but Ruta Sepetys has a gift. She has many gifts, of course, including writing riveting stories full of depth and the best characters, but she also has a gift for taking the sensational and making it real. This is not a book meant to titillate or be scandalous. She handles even the prostitution delicately—you see its ugliness without having to really see anything.
I had to know what happened to Josie. I had to find out her future. I had to find out what happened to her friends. I had to know which boy she ends up with. I had to know.
The book already has two starred reviews (from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly), I'm pleased to say, but this was a five-star book for me. Pick it up when you have time to get lost in a world completely different from anything you've experienced before (hopefully!). Pick it up and rejoice that authors like Ruta Sepetys exist and they are young enough to write more!