Book Review of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Publication Date: February 2, 2016.

Publisher: Philomel Books.

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War II, and Survival.

Rating: 587264602.png587264602.png587264602.png587264602.png587264602.png

Selling points: Remarkable characters, important and relevant story, a book that will stay with you once you finish it.

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

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.


Salt to the Sea is a remarkable book, one I will recommend to friends and family for years to come. The story is about four teenagers who meet on the run searching for an escape from the brutality of World War II. They are all haunted by the horror, tragedy, lies, and secrets that follow them and the war they are all in the middle of.

These four characters – Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred – are all hunted by their own secrets, and their very first line in their own chapters tells us what torments them the most. It gives you an insight to how burdened a young man or woman could be because of the choices, mistakes, and sacrifices they made because of the horrible circumstances brought to them by evil men and war.

“Guilt is a hunter.” “Fate is a hunter.” “Shame is a hunter.” “Fear is a hunter.”

Salt to the Sea is an incredibly sad story, but it is so beautifully written. Ruta Sepetys has in my eyes truly given this story, and the event it is based on, the justice and light it deserves. She captures the truth about the awful terror that transpired during World War II but at the same time, she creates strong and amazing characters that make you smile for they are hopeful even in the darkest of times. This is a work of fiction but when you read Salt to the Sea you see how much research and work has been put into it and that makes me love it even more.

There is so much to adore about this book – the authenticity, the strong characters, the storyline, the love displayed in so many different ways between the characters. However, in the end, there is only one thing left to say, you, my friend, most desperately need to read this book. It has so much to give and this story feels even more personal to me because of my background as Eastern European. Reading Salt to the Sea broke my heart because I know this is so much more than just a work of fiction, it shows us a piece of what really transpired during World War II. This is a book I believe is so important to read, no matter your age or background.

I have intentionally not spoken much of the ending of this novel because even if you know what happened to the Wilhelm Gustloff this ending is special all on its own. However, no matter how heartbreaking this book is it still shows us that love conquers evil, there is always more to give and hope prevails.

“Just when you think this war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give.”


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