Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (YA)
Determined not to become a working girl like her mother, Josie still feels a strong allegiance to Willie, the brothel madam, and her Quarter "family." Their secrets are her secrets. But as the investigation into the businessman's death threatens her dreams for the future, Josie must decide how far into the Quarter's underbelly she's willing to go in order to escape.
Although the brothel setting, and all that entails, clearly makes this book for older YA readers, Sepetys handles this delicate subject with care -- raising the intensity when necessary while keeping things PG-13. There is a little too much "hookers with hearts of gold" for me, and while her goal her is not to judge, she sometimes presents the subject matter rather flippantly. This is a slice of life where prostitution is a business, plain and simple. That said, when "the business" comes a little too close to Josie, Sepetys delivers her message loud and clear. Selling yourself, whether that means your body or your principles, is never the way to go.
I'm a huge fan of Ruta Sepetys' BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY and while I didn't feel as emotionally connected here as I did with BSOG, OUT OF THE EASY most definitely solidifies Sepetys as an outstanding author with lots to offer.