Book Reviews

Review: Salt to the Sea By Ruta Sepetys


Published: February 2nd 2016 by Philomel Books

Source: Local Library

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War II

Synopsis: 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.


Spoiler Free Review: 

Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit of historical fiction novels, so I’m pretty sure this will be the last one for a while due to the impact it had on me. Salt to the Sea  was an emotional roller coaster. Ruta Sepetys really knows how to write impactful stories focusing on people and events that are most forgettable. In this story, there are four main characters and one big tragedy. This documents their journey.

In Sepety’s previous book, Between Shades of Gray, another World War II novel, the writing was absolutely beautiful. The same goes for this book. The way she weaves words together is amazing. Each of the main characters have a distinct voice and all come from different backgrounds. In a way, the writing style differed depending on the person. 

Another aspect I found to be interesting was that both Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray are linked. One of the main characters in Salt to the Sea is teh cousin of Lina in Between Shades of Gray. Despite the connection, you don’t have to read either of the books in order. 

Moving on to the characters, I’m not going to say very much about them. They should probably be discovered on your own. I will briefly mention the. There is Joana, the oldest of them all. She is truly an admirable character and manages to stay strong even when she is at her weakest point. Emilia, who is the youngest at 15 years of age. She did act a little young for her age, however giving the circumstances she has to grow up early as well. Florian was a difficult person. He began as a pretty standoffish character and I really didn’t like him. He did grow on me and I came to appreciate him as well. Lastly, there was Alfred. I’m going to be honest and say I didn’t feel much of an attachment to him. I did not enjoy his chapters, he was to say the least,crazy. Let’s just leave it at that.

The ending definitely did make me want to tear up and I’m not a book cryer. But it honestly was not as tragic as I was expecting. It leaves you with some hope and ends on a good note. I will say, it does follow a similar ending like in Between Shades of Gray, but the story is its own. Overall, I would highly recommend reading this book. I flew through it in one sitting and it has short chapters, which is awesome. I didn’t have any knowledge on The Wilhelm Gustloff and it was intriguing to explore a dark tragedy. I really am looking forward to reading more of Ruta Sepety’s books and hopefully they will be just as good. 🙂

Rating: 4.5/5


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