A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that much of the action in Out of the Easy centers on a New Orleans brothel, and it's just as gritty as you might expect. But this is still a very good choice for mature teens who can handle the bawdy backdrop. The fiercely independent, gun-toting teen heroine finds her own way amid hustlers, prostitutes, and thugs, struggling to free herself from the influence of her scheming mother. There are abundant references to broken bed frames at the brothel and well-to-do men who sneak off to pay for sex.
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What's the story?
Seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine has lived on her own since she was 11, when she left her selfish, cruel mother -- a prostitute who once showed up for Parents' Day at school wearing nothing but a fur coat. Josie spends her mornings cleaning a New Orleans brothel and helping the madam, Willie, and then works in the bookshop where she boards. A chance encounter with a tourist who's later murdered sets off a chain of tumultuous events that has Josie warily keeping her gun close at hand. All the while, Josie dreams of getting out of New Orleans and getting admitted to Smith College in Massachusetts.
Is it any good?
The mature content of OUT OF THE EASY will make it a tough sell for some families, but it's worth taking a chance. Ruta Sepetys -- whose excellent debut novel, Between Shades of Gray, was also set against a brutal backdrop -- again delivers a richly rewarding story. Her heroine is feisty and frustrated, struggling to keep her estranged, malevolent mother from sinking her.
The plot occasionally veers toward melodrama, but Sepetys' strong, fresh writing keeps it anchored. A fairly large chunk of the story, set in the 1950s, takes place among the women in the brothel. Sepetys presents them with compassion -- there's no discussion of how or why women become prostitutes, and the only moral judgment is Josie's disdain for the johns and the work the women do, despite her fondness for Willie and many of her "nieces." The book's website includes a discussion guide.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Josie feels sullied by her mother's behavior. She feels that no matter what she does, she'll always be judged as her mother's daughter. Are today's teens just as harsh when it comes to family background?
The brothel setting will keep some families from considering Out of the Easy. Why do you think the author took that risk? Was it worth it?
The brothel workers are portrayed, for the most part, as kind and compassionate women. Do you think their work puts them in a position of power, or are they victims?
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