Josie (Jo) is a 17 year old high school grad who runs a bookstore with her friend Patrick. Technically, Patrick’s father owns the store, but his health is failing, so the responsibility falls on Jo and Patrick. The book takes place in the year 1950. When a Sugar Bowl player visits the bookstore on Mardi Gras and winds up dead the next day Jo finds herself questioned by the police. When it is found out that her prostitute mother was involved with this man, more questions arise.
While struggling with the police, Jo is trying to get into college and make money for college. She lives on her own and holds two jobs: one at the bookstore and one cleaning the brothel. The hostess of the brothel, Willie, took in Jo. Jo’s mother works for Willie and is present throughout the book. However, she has no interest in Jo and leaves to pay for her own housing and food.
The reality of this book is, for lack of a better word, real. The mystery of a man dying on the busiest night of the year in New Orleans is intriguing. However, a lot of the mystery is never solved in the book, which leads to be very disappointing yet puzzling. This was good on one hand, leaving the reader to think about what really happened, but on the other hand, it can cause a reader to be angry with the author, Ruta Sepetys.
The style of the book is easy to read but still has dialect for the time period and ethnicities. The wealthier people have proper grammar while the old taxi driver has a slang and choppy speech with the accent of a New Orleanian. The writing is easy to follow and not cramped full of big words, which is what I expected when I saw the book is about the 1950’s.
The historical accuracy cannot be judged, due to the fact that there wasn’t any technology mentioned other than cars and a telephone. The setting of the book was in a bookstore which kept its records by paper. The outline of the city described in the book is fairly accurate to the actual city structure, which was educational. The entire book was captivating and emotional. As a reader you rejoice for Jo in her victories no matter how small, and you feel sympathetic for her when she feels loss.