Out of the Easy

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Out of the Easy Book Poster Image
Well-told story of prostitute's daughter; for mature teens.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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. 

Sex

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 prostitute holding an ice pack between her legs. 

Language

Words include "ass," "piss," "whore," "hell," and "screwing."

Consumerism
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.

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. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 April 5, 2013

Sensual and daring tale of 50's Big Easy

This is an excellent tale for age fourteen and up, who will be able to handle the saucy content like the brothel Jo works at. There are many characters Sepetys... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBetty L. July 11, 2013

ONE OF THE BEST "GROWING UP" STORY EVER!!!

OUT OF THE EASY was just as amazing or better than Ruta Sepetys' first novel. I loved that the setting was in New Orleans and I learned a lot about the tim... Continue reading

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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