Sunday, April 5, 2015

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

It's 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. 

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

“Out of the Easy” is one of the more interesting novels I have come across lately, as it is a historic novel set in New Orleans during the 1950s. Ruta Sepetys has a knack for creating beautiful historically accurate novels, that give depth and insight as to what life might have been like during those times, but she spins it in such a way that you almost forget that what you’re reading is historical. In “Out of the Easy”, we meet main character Josie Maran. She is intelligent, caring, and intuitive, but none of these wonderful qualities is able to show itself at its full potential because she is overshadowed by one simple fact, her mother is a prostitute.

Josie lives an extremely different life, especially when compared to other girls her age. Josie has grown up in a brothel and things are even more perplexing because the owner of the brothel acts more like a mother figure towards her than her actual mother. Even though Josie’s life is extremely unconventional, she has been able to create a support system around herself consisting of the other prostitutes at the brothel who seem to have hearts of gold, and the various other people involved in the brothel business.

Josie’s mother has been extremely problematic her entire childhood, and this has caused Josie to find solace in an ordinary bookshop in town. The owner Charlie acts as a father figure to Josie and gives her a place to stay, away from the madness at the brothel. Josie’s life consists of working at the bookstore with Charlie’s son Patrick, working as a maid at the brothel, and overall just continuing to live her life going round and round in a circle that is seemingly never ending. That is, until Josie meets a kind stranger by the name of Charlotte. Charlotte gives Josie hope for a normal life and insists that Josie attempt to escape the life she’s been living by applying to college out east.

The novel centers around Josie’s struggle to overcome the difficult life she was born into, and how even when thousands of miles away, her mother still thrusts her problems onto her. Ruta Sepetys creates a story full of love, innocence, blackmail, death, murder, and overall a sense to break free of the shackles life has put on you. Out of the Easy is a beautifully crafted coming of age story, where a teenage girl tries to overcome things most people could never imagine dealing with. Overall, I believe Sepetys has created a novel full of twists and turns that will keep you flipping through pages, if you’re looking for something a little different from your standard story, be sure to pick this up!

Writing Quality: 4.5/5
Content Quality: 4.5/5

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor...Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park...He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year olds -- smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

It’s safe to say that Eleanor is not your typical teenage girl. She’s messy; her attitude is messy, her untamed red hair is messy, and her life is messy. It’s hard to overlook Eleanor, she stands out like a blinding light, or if she could put it in her own words, she’d probably describe it as a train wreck you couldn’t look away from. Then on the opposite spectrum, we have Park. Park is the quiet half-Asian boy that is always overlooked. He has friends, and people genuinely like him, but Park has always had the ability to blend into the background. That’s why when Park and Eleanor meet for the first time, it’s like a strike of lightning. The two form an unlikely friendship through peculiar common interests, and before you know it, they’re falling headfirst into a romance no one could ever have predicted. The two are able to take the broken pieces of their lives, and somehow try to make it seem like what they have is whole. This book caught me off guard in the beginning, because somehow Rainbow Rowell is able to use common stereotypes to her advantage. Sure, you have two misunderstood kids come together and find solace in each other, but somehow Rowell makes it one of the least cliché things I have ever read. Something I thoroughly enjoyed about the book was the fact that I got to hear both Park’s and Eleanor’s inner thoughts. Rowell has the chapters switch back and forth in between characters, and I can’t imagine having it any other way. Being able to delve into both sides of a conversation leaves you feeling even more emotionally invested than you would think possible. Sometimes when I read a romance novel or even something that has a slight romantic hint, I am left wanting to know more. How did the other person react? Was it really taken in the way it was meant to be? With Rowell’s masterpiece, she doesn’t leave you wondering. Her characters are so vividly honest and real, you never question what is being said or done. Rowell also has the ability to make you fall in love with a character’s flaws. Sometimes all we want to do in life is smooth out other people’s rough edges, but Rowell makes you understand that those rough edges are what makes the person tick. It’s what gives them their personality, and all their little quirks. Take away the rough edges, and you may never be able to get back what you once loved so dearly. Even with all of Rowell’s beautiful character development, you also have to give credit to the writing itself. Almost every page of this book has a worthy quote to pull out; her ability to spin such meaningful and thoughtful dialogue is truly something to revel over. Overall, Eleanor & Park leaves you wanting to break apart from the stereotypes, it makes you want to love those rough edges, and it makes you realize someone or something can be whole even with broken pieces. In the end, Rowell crafts a beautiful story that is sure to leave any reader a bit breathless, and with a need to know more.

Content: 4 Stars
Writing Quality: 5 Stars

Happy reading!!!