Ruta Sepetys’ first novel, about a teenage girl trapped in a Siberian prison, was published last March. Unfortunately, the title was Between Shades of Gray, and it’s probably suffered for having a name so similar to a certain infamous novel written around the same time. I haven’t read it, but it’s been well-reviewed – Sepetys is certainly making a name for herself as a writer who speaks to young adults without dumbing anything down.
Her new book, Out of the Easy, is set in New Orleans in 1950. And while it’s likely to be targeted and sold mostly to young adults, it’s hardly a children’s book. The protagonist, Josie Moraine, begins her tale with the frank but alarming sentence “My mother is a prostitute.”
Josie is determined to escape that shameful legacy and head to college in the Northeast, but it’s a long shot, especially once her mother gets tangled up in a murder…
The subject matter is challenging and mature, but Sepetys manages to avoid being explicit or titillating while still not pulling any punches. Instead, Josie is written convincingly as a young woman trying to keep her head in a world of hurt and danger and disrespect.