Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys has an eye-popping first line. "My mother's a prostitute." The narrator isn't just directing an insult toward a mom who sleeps around. The mother here is your traditional, lives-in-a-cathouse, works-for-a-madam prostitute. The setting--mid-twentieth century New Orleans--and the world--of prostitutes--is the big draw for this book.
Main character Josie Moraine is an older YA character. She's finished high school and is saving to get out of the Big Easy. Her voice and those of the other characters are a little contrived, though that is understandable. This is a historical novel and the author is trying to duplicate the language and usage of another era. That's extremely difficult to do and make sound natural. As with so many YA novels, Josie is torn between two lovers. It's pretty obvious to readers (at least this adult reader) that she can forget about one of them. Josie doesn't get it. Once again, this is probably understandable given the era she lived in.
There is a mystery here, but it seems to exist in order to showcase the historical world. Everything in this book seems to exist to support the historical world. Fortunately, it's a fantastic world.
Out of the Easy reminded me of Spirit and Dust because both books involve a protagonist on the high end of YA living in a world YA readers won't be familiar with. Little sub-genre going here?
Out of the Easy was just named a finalist for the 2013 Cybil for Young Adult Fiction.