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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Out of the Easy - Reader, I loved this book. I adored Sepetys’ debut, Between Shades of Gray, and had been eagerly awaiting her follow up novel. I was not disappointed. Sepetys’ commitment to impeccably researching her subject matter shows, and she brings 1950s New Orleans to life on the pages of Out of the Easy. I really enjoyed Sepetys’ take on class and social stigma in Josie’s story. As the daughter of a prostitute, and in the employ of shrewd Madam Willie, as a cleaner, Josie is keenly aware of the limitations society would put upon her. Savvy and streetwise, Josie dreams of getting out of New Orleans and attending Smith college, while at the same time being conscious of her allegiance to her Mother. When a mysterious death occurs, Josie finds herself drawn more deeply into the underbelly of the Quarter, and her plans for escape and a future of her own making at risk. Sepetys excels at crafting nuanced, believable characters, and this was the highlight of the novel for me. These are flawed, realistic people and they bring the story to life, make you care about what happens to them. Josie herself is relatable: a resourceful, strong teenager who also experiences self-doubt and fear. The plot necessitates Josie questioning her conscience and her choices, and the conflict feels real. Some readers may have preferred to see a story that deals with prostitution handled through the perspective of the women involved directly. By framing the narrative through Josie’s perspective, it could be argued that it is inherently biased, and the agency of those characters is denied. I respect that opinion, although I don’t share it. What felt important to me here was that the story be true to Josie’s experience and voice; the lens through which she views the world. I think Sepetys succeeds in this. Josie’s narration and opinions are influenced by her past, and I think it’s conveyed without disrespect to the other characters. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. So much about this book worked for me: the clear, vivid setting, the strong characterisation, the complex relationships and questions of family and loyalty. And I can’t wait to see what Ruta Sepetys writes next.