Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin)
Agent: Ken Wright
Editor: Tamra Tuller
Released: February 12, 2013
Genre: YA/New Adult Historical Fiction
It's 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie Moraine wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan 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.This was a really enjoyable ride through the underbelly of 1950s New Orleans, and because it's told from the perspective of a girl trying to get out of it, all the details come that much more alive. The varied faces of each character and each event add to the lushness, and I liked how no character is absolutely good. Some are absolutely evil, but there are layers to all the good and in-between characters - depending, of course, on your definition of good, which is a part of what this book is about. Josie learns a lot throughout the journey that is this upheaval of her life, and she comes to see things and people differently than she did when she just wanted out. Each character is so deeply developed, even the characters who appear for only a brief time, like Charlotte. Although she is actually there for two brief scenes, and after that appears in the story only through correspondence, we really get a full picture of what she's about, how she fits into society and how she views Patrick and Josie.
The schemes to get out of New Orleans lie behind every shocking and devastating event in the book, and I like the way it builds up naturally, so that it seems an obvious thing that Josie is applying to Smith, although at the beginning of the book, both she and the reader would never dream of anything like that. I especially like the way Josie gets out at the end. The whole book is essentially about seeing things in a different light, about getting to the bottom of what each person is really about. And though Josie gets to leave New Orleans, the way she leaves is a statement about what she's learned. I love that it's not a fairy-tale ending. Josie has a hard life, and it will never get totally better - her past will always be a part of her. And that, i think, is what she is meant to understand from all the events of the book.