Out of the Easy
By Darienne Stewart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Well-told story of sex worker's daughter; for mature teens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A strong sense of place helps paint a picture of New Orleans in the '50s, particularly in the French Quarter. Teens may be interested learning more about this unique city.
Josie often feels alone and abandoned, but she grows to appreciate the network of friends that keeps her from falling into ruin and serves as her surrogate family. Generous and compassionate adults play a central role in guiding her to a way out of the mess. By the story's end, it's evident that great good can be found in the unlikeliest places.
Positive Role Models
Willie, the brothel madam, and her driver, Cokie, aren't exactly model citizens, but they're devoted to Josie. Both try to help her find a better path in their own ways. They're deeply principled people, despite earning their living at the brothel. Charlie, the bookshop owner, gives Josie a place to stay when she was in need, and, in turn, she helps his son, Patrick, care for him as his health fails. Josie makes some missteps, notably lying to police and hiding evidence, and she wrestles with her conscience.
Violence & Scariness
Josie's mother is smitten with a man who beat her, threatens to hurt Josie, and beat and robbed an elderly man. He later abducts Josie at knifepoint and threatens her. A mob thug threatens Josie with death if she doesn't pay her mother's debt. A man is poisoned in a bar, and two other characters die in troubling circumstances. Josie keeps a gun strapped to her thigh and practices shooting with Willie. She's repeatedly leered at by brothel patrons. An ailing man cuts himself with scissors in a bloody, upsetting scene.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Only mild kissing is described, but sexual situations serve as the story's backdrop. Leering men proposition Josie. Desperate for money, Josie makes arrangements to have sex for cash but changes her mind. Men who frequent the brothel are described as perverts, and there are life-in-a-cathouse references to things like a dress ripped in the bosom and a sex worker holding an ice pack between her legs.
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Words include "ass," "piss," "whore," "hell," and "screwing."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A man is poisoned in a bar, a few adult characters are drunk at celebrations, and there's mention of B-girls who are paid to encourage men to drink at bars. Some peripheral characters smoke. Josie's mother drinks heavily and appears under the influence of a drug she's taking to lose weight.
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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 girl hero finds her own way amid hustlers, sex workers, 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.
Where to Read
Based on 2 parent reviews
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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 sex worker 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 hero is strong-willed 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 sex workers, 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 in Out of the Easy. 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?
- Author: Ruta Sepetys
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Philomel
- Publication date: February 12, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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