March 16, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy

By: Ruta Sepetys
Published: February 2013 by Philomel Books
Format: Hardback, 352 pages
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."
-Sir Francis Bacon

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.

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.

Rating: 3/5

Being a huge fan of Sepetys's first novel, Between Shades of Gray, I couldn't wait to hop into this one when it arrived on my front porch with a stacked of other books. I had read the synopsis only once, in a hurry, and didn't really grasp what it was about, but I didn't care, so I went into this with having any expectations other than the beautiful, heart-wrenching emotional ride Sepetys had given to me before. Sadly, though, I didn't get that with this read.

In the beginning, I can honestly say I was annoyed. I didn't like Josie or her voice and we were introduced to so many characters within the first few chapters that I found myself massaging my aching temples. My frustration with the characterization tended to go on a roller coaster ride throughout the book. At times, I would find a character fascinating or disturbing (in the good way, like they're supposed to be), but other times I would either think a) that they were a dull/unneeded addition to the story or b) ...who are they again? The latter happened way too much for me and the dull additions wouldn't have bothered me much if it hadn't have been with one of the supposed-to-be-supporting characters and one of Josie's love interests.

Jesse. Seriously, for nearly the first half of the book, every time Jesse would pop up, I would be like, "Who the eff is this?" The first few scenes were very obviously thrown into the book to "introduce" Jesse when they really came off as Josie noticing an acquaintance for no reason. And when he became the love interest in a very weird love triangle (seriously, it was a pointless one; was it even one?), I cocked an eyebrow and shook my head. It would have been just fine without the addition of Jesse, if you ask me, romance-wise. Then at the end, it was almost like Josie had forgotten about her best friend/other-kind-of-love-interest and it was all about Jesse. It made no sense to me whatsoever.

Not all the characters were like Jesse, though. I particularly loved Willie's characterization and also Cokie (whose name I mispronounced in so many different ways than it's supposed to be). I also did like Josie for the most part, especially her strength to survive on her own, but she tended to annoy me with some of her obvious thinking. Granted, that comes down to the narration/writing.

I think that's what was most bothersome about this. I didn't feel as though Sepetys gave me enough. I felt it was too simple in places and when it came to the plot, I just didn't get the emotional attachment. Josie, for example, lost two loved ones--well, three, sort of--and many other things important to her, and when it came to her feelings about it, I felt Sepetys just had her cry. A few times, there would be insight to her feelings, but it just wasn't consistent. Especially when a certain male figure passes away. I just didn't feel Josie's connection with him.

It seems like I had a lot of negatives about this, but in reality, I couldn't put it down. I read it in almost one day (in between working and going out), so that's a huge deal to me. It was readable and I did enjoy it. While I felt the plot was just thin and didn't give me any thrill like I felt it should have given with the subject matters, it was enjoyable and very original. I can honestly say I've never read another book like it and I do recommend it.

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