In Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys had me at hello. It begins:
My mother's a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.
Seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine doesn't want to follow in her mother's footsteps. She's known that for years, and even though she still works at the same brothel as her mother—cleaning rooms, mind you—and even though she's on good terms with Willie Woodley, the woman who owns it, she's independent enough that she's kept her own apartment since she was eleven years old.
She works part-time at the bookstore below it, and she dreams of going to college. But when Josie dreams, she dreams big: she wants out of New Orleans, to start over somewhere up North, somewhere where she can reinvent herself—where no one knows who she is or what her mother does.
LOVE: THE DIALOGUE. Out of the Easy is set in 1950, and Sepetys' characters sling slang without sounding phony or overblown, and the dialogue zings back-and-forth like in an old movie. The characters speak in distinctive voices, and unlike in Strands of Bronze and Gold, those differences in vocabulary, rhythm, and diction are affected by economic class, vocation, and education, rather than being purely dictated by the color of one's skin.
LOVE: JOSIE. Her narration has a touch of the noir hero: deadpan, world-weary, and with an understanding of ironic humor. Unlike a noir hero, though, she is open about being emotionally affected by... things that are emotionally affecting. She's smart, she's canny, and rather than blushing and wanting to melt into the ground in embarrassing situations, she treats them as opportunities—I cheered out loud when she turned one around by becoming an impromptu blackmailer, and I swooned during another when she threw herself into a cute boy's lap to save herself (and him, to a degree) from some catty mean girls.
LOVE: HER MOTHER. Well, no, actually, I loathed her mother. But I loved that she wasn't the Pretty-Woman-hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, I loved that she wasn't secretly sympathetic, or selfless or particularly smart. She was completely self-absorbed, and while her behavior makes her come off as rotten and somewhat stupid, it's important to remember who's telling the story: Josie isn't exactly an objective party. The other women who work for Willie are a mixed bag of funny/serious/witty/quiet/ruthless/rude/mothering/mean/sensitive and everything in between, and it's easy to imagine that if another person had told the story, Louise would have come off as more human. Maybe. Then again, SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST TERRIBLE.
LOVE: THE BOOKS. Josie works in a bookstore, and she and her best friend Patrick have an ongoing game where they predict what sort of book customers will want. There are references to Dickens and Keats, Capote and even L'Engle. And, tangentially, Poe: Josie ends up with a dead man's watch—THAT'S RIGHT, ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE, SHE INVESTIGATES A MURDER—under her floorboards, and she swears she can hear it ticking, ticking, ticking. Which, of course, evokes The Tell-Tale Heart.
LOVE: EVERYTHING ELSE. Sepetys is true to the era and her characters in how Patrick's story plays out; the romance is sweet and heartfelt; the details about 1950s life and culture work themselves in fluidly; Josie wants what she wants so badly that I was never quite sure about how far she'd go to get it; and while the ending certainly has some fairy-tale elements, there's enough bitter in the sweet to keep cynics (like me) from getting all up on their high horses.
Oh, I loved this book. As it's got the same combination of fantastically-rendered historical atmosphere—the dialogue is TO DIE FOR—and mystery elements, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it to fans of Judy Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.
And now we come to the end of my re-read of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War.
This is, hands down, the most bizarre cover I've come across. Is that a girl? Dancing? With a sock puppet? I don't even. THERE AREN'T EVEN ANY MAJOR FEMALE CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK.
Chapter Twenty-nine: The sale turns around.
Chapter Thirty: Brother Leon is now enjoying homeroom IMMENSELY.
Chapter Thirty-one: The return of Janza.
Chapter Thirty-two: But, oh no, beating the crap out of him isn't enough.
Chapter Thirty-four: Jerry's day of invisibility.
Chapter Thirty-five: If Archie Costello promised you anything "fair and square", would you believe him?
Chapter Thirty-six: And what, exactly, is the deal with those raffle tickets?
Chapter Thirty-seven: The fight.
Chapter Thirty-eight: The aftermath.
Chapter Thirty-nine: Obie and Archie, back in the bleachers.
Ag. Now I'm all emotionally drained and busted. I need a nap. And maybe some ice cream.
I'm going to finish up my re-read of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War with TWO BIG POSTS.
Okay, settle in!
Chapter Eighteen: In which Jerry has a long dark night of the soul.
Chapter Nineteen: In which Jerry fully commits to his stance.
Chapter Twenty: In which we see that Obie really is sick and tired of Archie.
Chapter Twenty-two: Sales numbers are down; Brother Leon is taking it hard.
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Goober refuses to play ball.
Chapter Twenty-four: Brother Leon and Archie throw down.
Chapter Twenty-five: Jerry is summoned to appear before the Vigils.
Chapter Twenty-six: Jerry calls Ellen Barrett.
Chapter Twenty-seven: The Vigils REALLY begin to implode.
Chapter Twenty-eight: Things start to get bad for Jerry.
My re-read of The Chocolate War continues!
Chapter Twelve: In which Jerry has his last perfect moment in a long, long time.
Chapter Thirteen: The first day of the chocolate sale.
Chapter Fourteen: Time passes. Boys sell chocolates.
Chapter Sixteen: In which a random student has a devastating flash of insight.
Chapter Seventeen: In which Jerry does the unthinkable.
Spoilers about Belles are a necessity!
After long-lost cousins Isabelle Scott (from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, basically the North Carolina version of Chino) and Mirabelle Monroe (from Emerald Cove, basically the North Carolina version of the O.C.) found out that they were ACTUALLY SISTERS, life for both of them changed YET AGAIN.
Only actually not that much. Yes, they have to do a bunch of press stuff so as to save their father's political career, but mostly it's just more of the same: dealing with mean girls at school and trying to save Izzy's beloved community center and misunderstandings and boy troubles and so on.
And never fear, O.C. fans, this installment continues to channel the show: WINTER WHITE IS (in part) ABOUT COTILLION.
The only thing missing is Tate Donovan getting punched in the face.
Be ready for some clunky exposition—Cotillion! How could Mira have forgotten about her favorite tradition in Emerald Cove? Making her formal debut into society was something she had dreamed about since she was in pre-K. She'd spent the last three years preparing for the sophomore girl tradition—taking etiquette classes, going to Saturday morning dance lessons, and doing approved Junior League charity work—and somehow she had let all this drama with her dad make her completely forget the most important event of the year!—but wait, there's more!—Cotillion pledging. Rush. Debutante initiation. Whatever you wanted to call it, Mira had forgotten about this secret tradition, too.—and then the narrator goes on to explain it all in detail, but I'm sure you get the point, so I'll spare you.
And I was disappointed that Calonita [SPOILER] apparently fed the same exact criteria into the Random Villain Generator, because JEEZ LOUISE, AN UP-AND-COMING POLITICAL FAMILY JUST CAN'T GET RELIABLE HELP THESE DAYS. [/SPOILER]
Perfect? No. Literary pyrotechnics? Double no.
But I love how Izzy and Mira have become a team—much like Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood, of course—and if you go in for this sort of thing (as I do), as long as you're prepared to overlook some rough spots, it's fun stuff. I'll be reading book three soon-ish.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
Which, many years and many books later, is still my favorite Castellucci.
It's about Victoria—call her Egg—the daughter of a has-been actress and a Oscar-winning special effects artist:
She is extremely bright, and likes people to be aware of that fact. She likes routine and she likes to be in control. She likes to be seen as a loner. Although she's a photographer for the school newspaper and is a member of the sci-fi club, she avoids much interaction with her fellow students. She isn't (that) rude—she will talk to them if asked a direct question, but she doesn't generally initiate conversation. She's comfortable with the way things are.
I fell for this book immediately. Ron Koertge called it "compulsively readable", and I agree. I read half of it last night, then tossed and turned for ages before I finally gave up on sleep and got up to finish it.
Other favorite Hollywood books?
Regardless! Start organizing your TBR pile, because June 7th will be here BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.
I'd better remind Joshua that he'll need to find something to do that weekend that DOESN'T involve standing in front of me and chanting, "PAY ATTENTION TO ME, PAY ATTENTION TO ME, PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEE!"
Huh. In retrospect, I realize that I should have hidden The 5th Wave from him until that weekend: then he could have participated, too! (He's LOVING it, by the way. Judging purely by his reaction to it—he's been going to bed EARLY every night so he can start reading SOONER—I'm really looking forward to my turn with it.)
Because, you know, I TOTALLY NEED YET ANOTHER SHOW TO GET HOOKED ON: