9780399256929The last time we had a major storm (Hurricane Sandy), I spent the day home reading ARCs by flashlight. Well it’s storming again, and some of those books are finally being released. So while this book has no particular connection to storms, I’ll always associate the two. Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy (Philomel, $17.99, due out on Tuesday) is not an adventure story. It’s a story about character, and there are characters aplenty in 1950s New Orleans. Josie has a complicated life. Raised more by Willie, the madam at a French Quarter brothel, than her mother — an employee of that same brothel, who alternately lies and steals from Josie — Josie learns quickly to take care of herself. She moves into the back room of a bookstore at age 12 and eventually sets her sights on getting out of New Orleans and in to Smith College. Reminiscent of Cassandra from I Capture the Castle, Josie is competent, intelligent, and just naive enough to make a few mistakes. The New Orleans’s French Quarter is as much a character in this novel as Josie, Willie, Cokie, Patrick, Sweety, and Jesse, but this is Josie’s New Orleans, not the tourists’: she sleeps through Mardi Gras. Southern literary references abound and there are subtle elements of second wave feminism that provide a nuanced context and support, rather than distract from, the story. Due to the matter-of-fact references to prostitution, corruption, drinking, blackmail, and guns, this book is probably better for older teens and will make an excellent cross-over book. It could have easily been 50 pages longer, but I’m hoping that the lack of resolution with some of the minor characters means there might be a sequel on the way.