Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Posted March 25, 2016 by Ely in Reviews / 4 Comments

Salt to the Sea Book Cover Salt to the Sea
Ruta Sepetys
YA Historical
February 2nd 2016

In the cruel winter of 1945, four very different young people narrate their stories. Joana, Emilia and Florian are part of desperate group of refugees trekking across Germany, bound together only by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Alfred is a German soldier stationed on that ship.

This hugely touching, inspirational novel is based on a true story. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. It is the biggest maritime disaster in history, killing more people than the Titanic. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, has brilliantly brought this story to light and created a group of unforgettable characters with unmissable stories.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley, this is no way alters my opinion of the book.

Salt to the Sea was probably my most anticipated book of 2016, and it did not disappoint, not even for a second. Its sort of spin-off Between Shades of Gray is one of my all-time favourites, so I already had super high expectations for this.

I didn’t know where this story was going to go. I knew it was about Lina’s cousin, Joana, and that it would take place in Germany but that’s all I knew. Holy moley, people. I adore how Ruta Sepetys tells a story—it’s slow, with some ‘oh my god, pain!’ moments until suddenly you’re crying on your floor because she’s torn your heart out. Joana is an incredible character. I already knew a little about her from Lina’s perspective, but to actually read about her made me realise how amazing she is. Like Lina, she’s a strong character, especially in such difficult times. She’s a sort of mother-like figure to the other characters in the story, even though she’s younger than some of them. I loved that about her.

In this one we got to see a couple of different perspectives as well. Between Shades of Gray is told entirely from Lina’s perspective, so it was interesting to see a few different voices here. I think Ruta Sepetys is some sort of writing god when it comes to creating characters, because I fall in love with all of them. My favourite in this, other than Joana, was definitely Florian. I loved him from the beginning because he’s so different to Joana, and I loved how they played off one another. I love the supporting characters as well. Just like in Between Shades of Gray, there’s a sense of this family between the characters, even though they are all so different. I love that about her books.

I’m sad to say that I knew absolutely nothing about the Wilhelm Gustloff. It’s so sad that something like that tragedy has been mostly forgotten by the world today. On the other hand, I really love how Ruta Sepetys brings these events back to live in a way that it both beautiful and completely heartbreaking. I honestly cannot wait to reread this book again and again.

I know this review is quite short, but my breath was just so taken away by this book that I can’t think what else to say. If you want to hear more, I totally recommend Val’s review.


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4 responses to “Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. I had NO IDEA Joana was Lina’s cousin, but well, I haven’t read it yet, so it means I have an excuse, right? I bought Salt to the Sea as a birthday present to myself but I didn’t have the time to read it yet, because there are so many books. I’ve seen a lot of very positive reviews and I’m glad you’re one of them! Now I want to read the book even more, but I still want to wait a little, Great review! 🙂

    • Absolutely—you have to know the other side to the story! I get that, so so many books, so little time! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it, Lucie 🙂

  2. AWWW YOU LINKED TO MY REVIEW. Now I wish I got to this earlier hahah. But omg yes I totally agree that this event should have been more widely known. Because I had no idea about it! I’m glad that Salt to the Sea brought that to my attention 🙂

  3. I loved this book too! I really enjoyed the short chapters, it made the story keep moving for me. It definitely hit you really hard with the feelings in the end (Emilia ;-;). I never read Between Shades of Gray but I have heard a LOT of great things about it. I might have to pick it up!