Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Sepetys's Second Outing

The big YA book for spring this year looks to be Ruta Sepetys’s second historical novel for teens

January 22, 2013 In 2010, during the weeks leading up to the publication of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys racked up a perfect set of starred reviews, one from each of the four pre-publication review sites used by the bookselling industry to make ordering decisions. The Nashville author’s debut YA novel ultimately became a bestselling, award-winning, much-translated, international tour de force that kept Sepetys on a literal book tour for nearly two years and was a welcome sign that teen fiction might finally be wrested from the clutches of vampires.

Now Sepetys is poised to do it again: her second historical novel, Out of the Easy is due to hit stores on February 12, and early praise is rolling in. So far it’s made The Atlantic’s “YA to Watch For” list and Bookspan’s Top 13 New Books for 2013; and it has earned stars Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, the only two pre-publication review sites to address it so far.

Out of the Easy is set in 1950s New Orleans, partly in a bookstore and partly in a brothel; the protagonist is a teenager named Josie whose mother is a prostitute. (Nevertheless this novel, at least, is not likely to be confused for literary pornography.) In a Q&A with Publishers Weekly, Sepetys explained her interest in this character and her setting:

I chose the postwar period because it was a time when nostalgia was at an alltime high but there was also a lot of pain and pressure to conform. It was a time of unparalleled prosperity but it was also a quiet nightmare. I found the secrets fascinating. For example, if a parent were ill no one would ever mention it because it would diminish the perception of perfection. It is such a fascinating time period with so much pressure and [so many] expectations on young women, particularly in the South. So I just kept thinking about this young girl growing up on the sidelines of a brothel and how her circumstances would make everything that much harder. And I thought how these pressures would weigh on this girl who is born into brokenness, and what her issues of family and identity would be and how she would create a sense of self worth. Josie Moraine is learning to fly when she’s been born with broken wings.

Look for Chapter 16‘s review of Out of the Easy to post in connection with Sepetys’s appearance at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis on February 13. To read Chapter 16‘s extensive coverage of Between Shades of Gray, click here.