There was a lot of twitter last spring about Ruta Sepetys‘ debut novel, Between Shades of Gray. It also got some buzz for being commonly confused with a certain erotic series that skyrocketed to popularity around the same time. But they’re definitely not the same. Based on research into her own family’s past, Between Shades of Grey is the harrowing story of life in Stalin’s work camps.
So how does an author follow that? By leaving Siberia and heading to New Orleans, that’s how.
Sepetys’ new novel, Out of the Easy, follows Josie, a seventeen-year-old bookworm with hopes of heading to Smith College in the fall. But nothing is simple for the daughter of a prostitute in the 1950s, and when Josie is pulled into the intrigue of a local murder case, it seems like her dreams of escaping the Big Easy may never come true.
I read both Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy as advanced reader’s copies, and I can honestly say that they’re both memorable, striking novels that will stay in your head for a while. But, on the whole, I enjoyed Easy a lot more. The plot and several subplots are pretty basic, as it turns out, but that’s okay, because Sepetys has given us an excellent protagonist to drive the story forward. Josie is strong, plucky, resourceful, and extremely likable. I loved that she wasn’t afraid to use her considerable cunning to her advantage. She’s scrappy. I’m a big fan of scrappy heroines.
No, Ruta Sepetys definitely doesn’t shy away from difficult characters and situations. That’s why her stories are so engaging. Out of the Easy is the perfect pick for a lively book club discussion, or just some entertaining, dramatic solo reading. Check it out on our YA shelf!
Read on, readers!
P.S. One of the main plot points of the novel follows Josie’s efforts to go to college out East. In keeping with that theme, Penguin is offering an Out of the Easy scholarship contest! Access full rules and a submission form here.