Reading guide for Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys

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Out of The Easy

By Ruta Sepetys

Out of The Easy
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Feb 2013,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2014,
    368 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Throughout the book, the author uses language in unexpected and original ways. Two examples include her depiction of a dejected Patrick on page 140 where she writes that his "shoulders frowned," and her description of Miss Paulsen's "taffied scalp" (p. 152). What do you think each of these phrases means? What are some other examples of imagery created by the author? Why do you believe she made these choices as an author? (Reading Standard 4)

  2. Unlike many of the people in her life, Josie is an avid reader. How does her love of reading bring her closer to certain characters and further separate her from others? Cite specific examples from the book. (Reading Standard 1)

  3. Why does Josie become obsessed with Forrest Hearne, a stranger she met only once? How do her thoughts about him change after his death? Cite specific evidence to support your answers. (Reading Standard 2)

  4. What role does the setting—the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950— play in the story? How might the story be different if it were set in the present in your hometown? (Reading Standard 6)

  5. Why do you think Willie would only pay for Josie to go to college in New Orleans? (Reading Standard 3)

  6. The author includes a number of literary references throughout the text, incorporating titles and quotations of both classic literature and books that were popular during the time period in which the book was set. Why do you believe she chose to include these references? (Reading Standard 5)

  7. On page 41, Josie remembers a line written by Keats: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." Josie's life and her surroundings are filled with ugliness, but there are also things of beauty that bring her joy. What are some of those things? (Reading Standard 1)

  8. On page 260, a policeman questioning Josie says, "I told him he was going to a goat's house for wool." What does that mean? How does it make Josie feel? (Reading Standard 1)

  9. On page 211, Josie and Willie have a conversation in which they compare each other to characters from Cinderella. What do you think Willie means when she says Josie is like "Cinderella with the stepmother heart"? How does this comment make Josie feel? (Reading Standard 1)

  10. Josie says about herself, "No matter how I parted my hair, I couldn't part from the crack I had crawled out of" (p. 258). Why can't Josie see the good in herself the way others do? (Reading Standard 1)

  11. Josie and Jesse are both characters with very difficult pasts who could have easily chosen a lifestyle of "hustle and blow" like many of the other people in their lives. Why do you think each of them is able to choose a different path? (Reading Standard 2)

  12. While John Lockwell is not a sympathetic character, Josie essentially blackmails him to get what she wants. How do you feel about that decision on her part and why? (Reading Standard 3)

  13. Josie often reflects on the concept and elements of family. How would you define family and what are some things that create feelings of family for Josie? (Reading Standard 1)

  14. Josie makes a decision to do something abhorrent to her in order to get the money she needs from John Lockwell but is not able to go through with her plan. What is your reaction to that scene? How does the author create those feelings in you as a reader? (Reading Standard 5)

  15. Patrick has a secret that is never explicitly stated in the text. What is his secret? How does the author use foreshadowing to reveal it? What are specific clues from the text that illuminate what he is hiding about himself? (Reading Standard 5)

  16. How does Patrick feel about the part of himself that he is keeping secret? How do you know this? (Reading Standard 1)

  17. What happens when Patrick tries to explain his secret to Josie? Why do you think she never confronts him with the fact that she understands what he is hiding? (Reading Standard 3)

  18. On page 284, Josie recalls the following quote from Keats: "I love you the more in that I believe you have liked me for my own sake and for nothing else." How does that quotation apply to Josie's relationship with Patrick? (Reading Standard 3)

  19. Josie's mother is an extremely unlikeable character. Does she have any redeeming qualities? Cite specific examples from the text that influenced your feelings about her. (Reading Standard 3)

  20. Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice , "The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children." In Josie's case, she is punished for her mother's sins in a number of ways. What are some of Josie's mother's sins for which Josie is punished and in what ways is she punished? (Reading Standard 2)

  21. Why does Josie choose to change her name? What is the significance of the name she chooses? (Reading Standard 1)

  22. The author chose to write this story solely from Josie's point of view. How did that choice affect you as a reader? Select another character from the story and describe how your reading experience would have been different if the story had been told from her/his perspective? (Reading Standard 6)

  23. On page 237, Josie muses about how John Lockwell displays his history publicly in family photographs, how Willie keeps hers hidden in a drawer, and how she keeps her own history and dreams "on a list in my desk and, now, buried in the back garden." What does she mean by each of these statements? Where do you keep your history and dreams? (Reading Standard 3)

  24. Out of the Easy is a work of historical fiction. Any author of this genre must do extensive research to ensure that all the historical details included in the text are accurate. Ruta Sepetys describes some of the resources she used in writing this book in the "Acknowledgments" included at the end. What historical details did she include that sparked your curiosity as a reader? How might you go about finding out if a specific detail is factual or fictional? (Reading Standard 8)

  25. Josie quotes David Copperfield by Charles Dickens on page 265. Why is this quote significant? Is Josie the hero of her own life? What would you have done if confronted with some of the circumstances she faced? (Reading Standard 3)

  26. Josie wants desperately to escape from New Orleans because she wants to use her mind "for study and research instead of trickery and street hustle" (p. 267). Do you think she accomplished that goal? Why or why not? Cite specific evidence from the text to support your opinions. (Reading Standard 2)

  27. Were you surprised by the outcome of Josie's decision to apply to Smith College? What do you imagine will happen to Josie after the story ends? (Reading Standard 10)

Download a PDF of the reading guide from the Out of the Easy website.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Speak. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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