Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Length: 346 pages (hardcover)
Release: February 2013
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I buddy read this novel with a friend, which made it even more enjoyable than it probably would have been otherwise.
Let's start with the things I really liked about this novel. The history and the writing. While I was not blown away by how stunning the writing was, I did find it compelling and effortless in a way that I have found few others. The history was seamlessly sewn into the story, making me feel like I was there, walking the streets of New Orleans alongside Jo, trying to find my place in a world that I wasn't sure wanted me. Sepetys obviously knows how to craft a compelling story.
I also found the characters enjoyable, for the most part. While Jo occasionally frustrated me, I understood her. And while I didn't always agree with Willie (a brothel madam), I found myself unable to dislike her, even when I felt she was being cruel. All of the characters were necessary to Jo's development. And every character was unique. Not one of them felt like another. Whether it was the girls at Willie's house, the johns who would visit them, the sweet drive Cokie, supportive Jesse, sleazy Mr Lockwell, or confusing Patrick. They all had their own magic, whether good or bad.
There were some things I didn't enjoy. One of those was the slight love triangle that was involved. While I found both Patrick and Jesse necessary to the story, I didn't think that the addition of romantic tension there really suited the story. And I found Patrick rather irritating, which didn't help. I loved Jesse though, from the first pages.
The ending was also wrapped up far too quickly and smoothly. Several portions of the novel felt like this. Lots of buildup with little reward. It left me wanting more at times, which I wish I had been given.
In the end I really enjoyed this novel and will definitely be picking up Sepetys' other works. I am very interested to see if her WWII fiction is as compelling as this 1950s tale was.