Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release date: February 12th 2013
Publisher: Philomel Books
Hardcover, 352 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
Reading Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys lead me to conclude that there aren’t enough YA books set in a) the 1950’s and b) New Orleans. And yet, only a writer of Sepetys’ skill and confidence could have successfully written such a story. Out of the Easy is a murder mystery first, a coming of age story second, and about twenty other things in between. It is a story of great complexity, and yet paradoxically, it is also a very simple one.
With Out of the Easy, Sepetys confirmed that she’s not merely a writer of YA historical fiction, but that she’s a Writer and that she measures up to the very best. She is able to make her authorial voice completely invisible, thus allowing her characters to fully form and take center stage.
Out of the Easy rose from its pages to unfold right in front of my eyes, more like a play than anything else. I wasn’t a reader, not exactly - Sepetys had allowed me to become a spectator instead. All I had to do was sit back and watch as the setting materialized in front of me into a full audio-visual and olfactory experience.
The characters weren’t far behind. As soon as Josie Moraine spoke her first sentence (“My mother’s a prostitute.”), I knew we were going to get along, and we did. Each of us has wanted to be someone else somewhere else at least once in our lives, but for Josie, it’s a matter of survival. All she ever wanted was to be normal, to be able to live and learn like everyone else, without her mother’s constant malicious meddling. Josie’s voice was clear as bell, and she spoke to me until her problems became my problems and her heartache my heartache as well.
Willie said normal was boring and that I should be grateful that I had a touch of spice. She said no one cared about boring people, and when they died, they were forgotten, like something that slips behind the dresser. Sometimes I wanted to slip behind the dresser. Being normal sounded perfectly wonderful.
But Josie was not alone – each of the characters was so unique, so alive and vibrant – that they completely took over the story and left their author far behind. Or so it seemed.
This is where Ruta Sepetys’ skill truly shows. Her writing style is so clear, so completely transparent that it never gets in the way of the story. This ability (or rather a choice) makes even the characters’ emotions seem more genuine, not forced or manipulated, but as real as yours or mine.
It’s best that you go into this book knowing as little as possible, not because it hides some staggering surprise, but because its beauty is almost impossible to put into words. The only way is to experience everything for yourself, and if you ask me, that’s exactly what you should do.