4.5 starsSay you go out to a bar on Saturday night just looking to drink a few beers and maybe make conversation with anyone else who's there for Happy Hour. You're sitting there, nursing your beer, and you get to talking with the guy sitting next to you. It's just small talk at first, like work woes, but you two really start to connect and go into deeper subjects like your family, your dreams, and things you've only told your family and close friends.Before you know it, you're both going back to his apartment and you have the wildest, most fantastic sex of your life with that guy. Sunday morning, you wake up to see him in bed next to you.First thought: "Whoa, that was... unexpected."Second thought: "That was awesome!"That is exactly like this book.Josie had me from the moment she, as a seven-year-old, started making drinks for brothel madam Willie and her mother at the end of chapter one. The next chapter takes us to her life as an eighteen-year-old desperate to leave behind the Big Easy and it's hard not to get drawn into her story as she struggles with her mother's neglect/abuse and how people see Josie, the whore's daughter, more often than they see Josie, the person. She grabbed me by the heart and through all her up and downs with her best friend Patrick, his father, Willie and the brothel girls, her own mother, and Josie's own desires to get in to Smith College, she never let go of it. She only squeezed harder as I turned the pages, unable to stop myself.New Orleans and the Quarter as Sepetys writes it is atmospheric and endearing. From Evangeline, the mean kleptomaniac who dresses up like a schoolgirl, to Dora, whose bazoombas and love of green could knock anyone out, and beyond, the ladies of Willie's brothel are hard not to like. Willie Woodley herself is one of the most outstanding characters of the novel. Harsh yet loving, she is "the wicked stepmother with a heart of gold," as Josie puts it. She's better than Josie's own mobster-dating mother in any case.Out of the Easy has few weaknesses, but it does have them. Some of the supporting characters get very little characterization. Josie's love interest Jesse, for instance. His two traits are his alcoholic father and how he'll do almost anything for Josie, and there needs to be something deeper than that. It's hard to understand why Josie keeps covering for her mother after she humiliates Josie, steals from her, and treats her so badly and the text does nothing to help me understand. The mystery element is a little weak too and there's no solid resolution to it, though who did it is heavily implied.I nearly gave this four stars because of its weaker elements, but then it beat me over the head with feels at the end when I wasn't expecting it and it became more than a four-star read, though still not a five-star. It's a good thing there's room for compromise! Now I'm going to backtrack and read Between Shades of Gray, the novel that made Sepetys so well-known in the first place.