Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

25614492Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Publisher:Philomel Books
Point of View: 1st Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 13+
Pacing: Normal
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War II

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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


No wonder SALT TO THE SEA won the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction. It’s pretty darn captivating.

Every time I finish reading an historical novel, especially the WWII ones, I find the need to congratulate myself. It’s no secret that those novels are usually heavy in emotions and historical elements.

Yet Ruta Sepetys made reading this YA historical novel so easy. I didn’t even feel the necessity to take a dozen breaks between chapters. And that’s because it’s so…

Accessible. You don’t have to be a university student to understand fully what happens in this book. You don’t even need to be knowledgeable about World War II. The only thing you need to do is pay close attention to what the characters are saying.

Which isn’t hard at all. Ruta Sepetys’ writing is simple enough that we understand absolutely everything she is saying, but not so simple that it feels as if it were written by a kindergartener. It’s actually very lyrical.

This novel is narrated from four distinct point of views/characters – Alfred, Florian, Joana and Emilia – who are all brought together on the Wilhelm Gustloff by the catastrophic war.

Like many people, I forgot about this terrible part of the Second World War. I first heard about this ship when I watched the movie The Imitation Game, if this is indeed the ship that was mentioned in the movie, yet I only connected the dots when things started getting awry in the novel. Even more so than they are already were.

What a tragic event. So many lives. How did I not learn about this ship in high school? Thank you, books and movies (if that’s the ship!).


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7 thoughts on “Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. I have got to get my hands on this one. I keep hearing about it and I really want to read it but have no idea when I would get to it. You know, neverending but ever growing TBR list problem here. Lol.


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