You knew it was coming.. I FINALLY finished Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.
I have to say that it NEVER takes me two weeks to read a book. Granted, this one was very long, but that’s still a long time for me. I also paused and squeezed another book in the middle. But in the end, I think it was just meant to be that I was finishing up this book while at TLA because I had the AMAZING fortune to meet Ruta Sepetys TWICE while I was there and discuss the book with her. It’s such an amazing coincidence because when I started the book, I had no idea I’d be meeting her in a couple of weeks!
Out of the Easy is a historical fiction novel set in New Orleans in the 1950’s. The main character, Josie, is the 17 year old daughter of a French Quarter prostitute. Josie is ashamed of her mother, ashamed of her family history (or lack there-of), and dreams about going to college in the northeast where no one would know about her family ties. She has no idea who her father is and was basically raised by the madam of the whore house, Willie, and several of the other prostitutes, including Sweetie and Sadie and Evangeline. She lives in a small apartment above a bookstore where she has worked for years while also cleaning the whore house as a side job. Josie somehow finds herself involved when a young businessman is murdered in the French Quarter.
SO, based on the synopsis above, you’re probably wondering about the genre of the book, right? Yeah, me too. It’s categorized as young adult fiction, but the whore house bit is a lot for me to swallow. Of course, I won’t be putting this book on my middle school classroom bookshelf, but I might recommend it to some of my 8th grade girls whose mothers I know won’t come beating down my door at night. It’s excellent historical fiction and I’d recommend it to any girl ages 14 and up. Although there are numerous references to prostitution throughout, there’s no explicit sex and really nothing overly explicit at all.
Here’s what I got to tell Ms. Sepetys MYSELF:
She did a fabulous job writing about New Orleans and all of the references and cultural stuff is RIGHT ON. Being from Louisiana, I have read several books that were set here and all of them annoyed me by getting it wrong and being OVER THE TOP and too much with the Louisiana stuff… but this one did NOT! When I told her that, she said it was the best compliment! 🙂
I also got to tell her that this book was very personal to me. While my mother was not a French Quarter prostitute, she was a bartender my whole life and I totally identified with a main character who grew up constantly surrounded by these types of “sleazy” people and yearned to make my life better. *I* was the book-nerd daughter who overcame her past and made something better for herself. As a writer, Ms. Sepetys totally got the emotions and feelings of my situation right. I can’t say it enough.. this book is SO well written!
So while I was initially skeptical about this book and how DIFFERENT it is from her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, I truly ended up loving this gem of a book!
I hope you do too, and I’d like to help you get there! I’m giving away a signed copy of Out of the Easy with this post! Simply follow my blog comment on this post and tell me what your favorite historical fiction novel is and I’ll employ the random number picker to find a winner!
And BY THE WAY, *my* favorite historical fiction novel is actually two novels. That’s allowed here since one is a companion novel to the other! The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now are at the top of my list and I’ll review those titles another day.
While at TLA, I also got to attend a breakfast where Jack Gantos was the keynote speaker. He’s an AMAZING speaker – so REAL and he’s HILARIOUS! I read Dead End in Norvelt after it won the Newbery and it was honestly just OK for me.
Historical fiction set during the Cold War and Vietnam years is usually my favorite type, but this one wouldn’t make the top of my list. So much of the book seemed (have I said this before?) OVER-THE-TOP! I was fascinated to learn during the breakfast just how much of the book was taken from Jack’s actual life! If you’re familiar with the book, then you’ll probably be surprised to know that all of the following was taken from Jack’s actual life as a child:
– his dad actually built an airplane from a kit and flew it around town
– he really did have the nosebleeds
– the whole incident with the Japanese fighter pilot rifle actually happened!
– his mother grew the garden and used it to feed the elderly
– all the bits about Eleanor Roosevelt and her founding of the town were true
– the old lady with the arthritis (sorry, forgot her name) was a real person, and Jack’s mother really did lend him out to the neighbors (and her!)
– the whole grim reaper bit and the old lady telling him to come back in two weeks actually happened
So there were a few more I’m sure but that’s what I remember. Interesting, right? It was still just OK fiction for me, and to be honest, the students I’ve given the book to didn’t like it all that much. That being said, I’ll probably read the sequel when it comes out.
I’ll talk about ONE more for today! Right Behind You by Gail Giles
YES, of COURSE I enjoyed meeting this author at TLA too! Gail Giles was speaking at the very first author’s forum I went to on Wednesday evening when we first arrived. She’s an older lady but SOOOOO funny and I really enjoyed hearing her speak about her books, specifically Right Behind You.
This book is about a 9 year old boy named Kip who does something VERY awful in the first chapter of the book – he sets another boy on fire and kills him. The rest of the book is about Kip’s life after this event. I won’t spoil it for you any more than I’m about to, but I can tell you this… every student I hand this book to finishes it. I especially like to give it to my boy reluctant readers. Here’s what Gail Giles had to say about writing the book:
She’s addicted to Court TV and was watching the trial of a 12 year old boy who was tried for murder and found guilty as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. It bothered her that a 12 year old boy could be held accountable by a jury of his “peers” when they were all adults. Her insistence was that there should have been AT LEAST ONE 12 year old boy on the jury, and I do agree with her. But she wrote this book to right that wrong. She wanted to take a young boy, have him do something awful, and then show how he can (and the struggles of) rehabilitating your life after something like that happens. And she did a WONDERFUL JOB! Of course I’m telling you about this book because there is absolutely nothing too violent or sexual in this book to keep it off my middle school shelves. So the next time you are looking for something to interest those reluctant readers (or something great for yourself!), pick up Right Behind You by Gail Giles.
I have more I wanted to share but I’m going to have to cut this huge post short and save some for later!
Don’t forget to comment to enter for the signed copy of Out of the Easy!