Salt to the Sea: Book summary and reviews of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys X
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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 one another 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 #1 NYT 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.

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Book Awards

  • award image Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards, 2017

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. 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

"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

"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

This information about Salt to the Sea was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Debra BORCHERT

deeply immersed in this story
I was deeply immersed in this story. It was deeply profound and inspiring, although at time difficult to read through the hardships the characters endured. Brava!

Sarah K

Salt to the Sea Review
Florian, Emilia and Joana are all from various countries that Hitler invaded. All three cross paths and help each other on the way to freedom. Florian protects them, Joana heals them, and Emilia provides hope for them. Each of the three have rough backgrounds, starting from running away from definite death to leaving homes with families still inside. Sepetys brings out the worst and best of these relatable characters, and really gives them a human face. This book is suitable for people who don’t like historical fiction because it’s filled with romance, friendship, and tragedy as well.

Beckyh

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys
Although a young adult novel, this tale of the end of World War II and the refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff will also appeal to all who like historical fiction. Sepetys knows her subject well and is able to clearly voice each of the teens fleeing the fall of Germany. Each of the four teens tells their own story in alternating chapters, but the result is a devastatingly clear tale of desperation.
A nurse, a possible spy, a pregnant girl, a sailor aboard the doomed ship -- each adds their part as the story races to its conclusion. Sepetys is an excellent writer of atmosphere and character who is able to maintain tension throughout the novel.
Teens will love this book as will their elders. This would be a good book for a mother-daughter book group or any group interested in World War II and historical fiction.
5 of 5 stars

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Author Information

Ruta Sepetys Author Biography

Photo: Magda Staroweiyska

Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a "crossover" novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is renowned for giving voice to underrepresented history and those who experienced it. Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on over thirty state reading lists, and are currently in development for film and television.

Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta is passionate about the power of history and story to foster global ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Ruta Sepetys's Website

Name Pronunciation
Ruta Sepetys: Roota Suh-PET-tees

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