Salt to the Sea

Ruta Sepetys
For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, international bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies. In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.Told in alternating points of view, and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson's critically acclaimed #1 New York Times bestseller Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff--the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.Praise for Salt to the Sea:"Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction. In Salt to the Sea the hard truths of her herculean research are tempered with effortless, intimate storytelling, as her warm and human characters breathe new life into one of the world's most terrible and neglected tragedies." —Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Printz Award Honor Book Code Name Verity  “A rich, page-turning story that brings to vivid life a terrifying—and little-known—moment in World War II history.” —Steve Sheinkin, author of Newbery Honor and National Book Award finalist Bomb "Brutal. Beautiful. Honest." —Sabaa Tahir, New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes  * "Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty." —Publishers Weekly, starred review  * "This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered, and in turn, it tries to remember the thousands of real people its fictional characters represent. What it asks of us is that their memories, and their stories, not be abandoned to the sea." —Booklist, starred review * "Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping." —School Library Journal, starred review"The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn't change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning. Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful." —Kirkus"This book includes all the reasons why teens read:  for knowledge, for romance, for amazing and irritating characters.  This novel will break readers’ hearts and then put them back together a little more whole." —VOYA "Sepetys’s...scene-setting is impeccable; the penetrating cold of the journey is palpable, and she excels at conveying the scope of the losses while giving them a human face....[T]his elegiac tale succeeds with impressive research, affecting characters, and keen, often unsettling insights into humans’ counterposed tendencies toward evil and nobility. Readers will be left to discuss which impulse triumphs here." —The Horn Book Praise for Between Shades of Gray:A New York Times Notable Book of 2011A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2011A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011The iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen NovelA School Library Journal Best Book of 2011A Booklist Best Book of 2011A Kirkus Best Book of 20112012 Indies Choice Young Adult Book of the YearA Carnegie Medal FinalistA William C. Morris FinalistA New York Times BestsellerAn International Bestseller “Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.” —The Washington Post* “A harrowing page-turner.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review* “A gripping story.” —School Library Journal, starred review* “Bitterly sad, fluidly written…Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers.” —Kirkus, starred review * "Beautifully written and deeply felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.” —Booklist, starred review“Stalin deported and murdered millions, but he could not destroy the seeds of memory, compassion, and art that they left behind. From those seeds, Ruta Septeys has crafted a brilliant story of love and survival that will keep their memory alive for generations to come.” —Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls“In terrifying detail, Ruta Sepetys re-creates World War II coming of age all too timely today. Between Shades of Gray is a document long overdue.” —Richard Peck, Newbery Award–winning author of A Year Down Yonder“Between Shades of Gray is a story of astonishing force. I feel grateful for a writer like Ruta Sepetys who bravely tells the hard story of what happens to the innocent when world leaders and their minions choose hate and oppression. Beautiful and unforgettable.” —Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Newbery Honor–winning author of Hitler Youth 


Reviewed: 2020-12-01

Ruta Sepetys has done it again with another brilliant historical fiction novel. Set in the winter of 1945 during World War II, the book follows the lives of four strangers as they journey to and abroad the German military transport ship, the Wilhem Gustloff. Told through the eyes of each of the four strangers, the book primarily focuses on the hardship and struggles that each had to face throughout their journey to safety. The relationship between each character is deepened and their connection to one another becomes more distinguished as the book progresses. Sepetys does a wonderful job capturing the tragedy of World War II wreaked on so many innocent souls and the disaster of the Wilhem Gustloff that is hardly known. Although a work of historical fiction, the story imparts many facts from history, which allows the reader to learn about something they might not have even known before. It also really leaves the reader wanting to read more stories about the lives of these strangers either prior to or after World War II.

Reviewed: 2020-06-07

The best description for this book/series in 10 words or less:

"Four teenagers with completely different backgrounds come together to survive."



I have read Sepetys's first two novels and I thought this was the best one by far. This is an actual event that happened but both the Nazis and the Russian hid their loss/win because the war was pretty much over and it was accepted. The research put into this event really shows through the reactions of the fictional characters.

What I loved most was that the book was split into four alternating characters in first person. Changing characters and their ideas is a very difficult task especially if it's more than two, but Sepetys truly pulls off this arduous task. It was at first hard to follow the characters because there are four characters you have to get to know and be familiar with. This is the only issue I had with it but that's something that everyone will have an issue with at first.

The chapters were also very short, which made the novel read so quickly.

The characters were great and very diverse. Emilia is Polish and has to keep her identity hidden but she is also pregnant which means her life is double life or death. Joana is Lithuanian and she is a skilled nurse and feels the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Alfred Frick is Prussian and fairly loyal throughout the novel to gain favor with authorities, which shows how some military officers really were during World War II. Florian Beck is German and a traitor to his country, but that's because he follows his heart and does what he thinks is right.

Of course almost every young adult book, or even adult, has romance. But the romance does not take over the novel and simply enhances the novel to represent more on how high the stakes really are for all four characters.

The ending was not what most people would expect. It is not completely happy. There is a lot of turmoil that goes on even to the very end.


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