Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys


Salt To The Sea By Ruta Sepetys


Pages: 393
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Publication Date: February 2016


World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many 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 to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.




I have finally climbed on the hype train for this book. You hypers were right; it’s intricately plotted and very well-written. Prepare for a review full of quotes because I couldn’t limit myself to one or two. I don’t know why I didn’t read this book sooner. (Actually, I do know. I’m rebellious and don’t like everybody telling me what to read, even though you’re usually correct.) Anyway, I loved this book. It’ll easily be one of my favorites of the year.

The author drops you in the middle of the action, and that action never stops. The story follows four young people who have been swept up in the tide of refugees fleeing the fighting during WWII. They all end up as passengers on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that’s supposed to take them to safety. When the ship sinks, the characters are plunged into a freezing ocean that is just as deadly as the war.


I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.Salt to the Sea



I understand why so many people love this book. It has something in it for almost everybody. It’s historical fiction, so the blend of fact and fiction appeals to history lovers like me. Adventure enthusiasts would enjoy this novel because it’s a lightning-fast-paced survival story. There’s romance, danger, secrets, and characters who can’t be trusted. If you like historical fiction or books about disasters, this is a must-read.

Is it weird that my favorite character is Alfred, the incompetent bad guy? I’d never want to know him in real life. (Actually, he kind of reminds me of people I know in real life . . . .) He’s disgusting in every way. But, he’s interesting to read about. He’s massively selfish and mostly lives inside his own head. He sees himself as a hero, but he’s not. He’s really, really not. I like seeing Alfred from his own point-of-view and from the other characters’ points-of-view. They see him very differently than he sees himself. That’s realistic. Bad people usually don’t know that they’re insufferable.


Killers aren't always assassins. Sometimes, they don't even have blood on their hands.Salt to the Sea 

His smugness was annoying. This was the type of man who looked at a picture on the wall and instead of admiring the photo, looked at his own reflection in the glass.Salt to the Sea



One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because it teaches readers about the world in a non-boring way. I had heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff before reading this book, but I didn’t know all of the details. I knew that the ship belonged to the Nazis and was torpedoed by the Soviets. It was the deadliest sinking in maritime history. (Yes, deadlier than Titanic and Lusitania.) I didn’t know that the ship had too many passengers and not enough lifeboats. Or that 5000 of the 9000+ people who drowned were children. That’s why historical fiction is important. It can take an event that most people have vaguely heard of and make it real for us.


What determines how we remember history and which elements are preserved and penetrate the collective consciousness? If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memories, and personal testimonies available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.Salt to the Sea, Author’s Note



I’m trying to come up with complaints about this book because I don’t like to fangirl, but it’s difficult. I really liked everything about it! If I’m being picky, the beginning is slightly confusing. The chapters are short, there are four point-of-view characters, and you’re dumped right into the action. I felt like I was scrambling to catch up with the plot. It wasn’t a huge problem because I figured out what was happening pretty quickly.

This is the second Ruta Sepetys book I’ve read. I liked both of them, so I’ll keep an eye out for more of her work.





TL;DR: One of the best books I’ve read so far this year. A fast-paced historical survival novel about an event that should be talked about more often.















31 comments:

  1. So glad you loved this one. I listened to it and really liked it. I hadn't heard of the actual historical parts so that was one of my favorite things about it.

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    1. I vaguely remember learning about it in high school, but I didn’t know the details.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. I saw this one on a lot of blogs but I never bothered to check it out. I don't know why, because it sounds awesome!

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  3. Well, I think it's about time I jumped on the hype train for this one and picked it up as well! It sounds stunning and I'm so glad to see you enjoyed it. I will be bumping this one up on my TBR.

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  4. I have no idea why I haven’t read this one yet. I’ve seen only raves, never a bad review, and yet I just haven’t made it happen yet. Thanks for putting this back on my radar. Seeing you call it one of the best of the year makes me more determined than ever to get to it sooner rather than later.

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    1. It does seem to be pretty universally loved. I haven’t seen many bad reviews, either.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. Read the author’s Between Shades of Grey and loved the book! ❤️ Your excellent review reminds me I need to pick up this next book. Thanks for the nudge. 😄

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    1. I loved Between Shades of Gray, too! I still need to read the author’s other book. (Out Of The Easy? Is that what it’s called? Something like that.)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. This sounds amazing and I have a copy of my kindle, so I'm going to have to make it priority.

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  7. Ohhh yay yay YAY! I need to read this still. I have owned it for over 3 years so that's a fail on my part. I love when a book is super quotable too, I definitely need to get on it. Great review!!

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  8. I'd forgotten I have this one on my TBR so thank you for jogging my memory! Loved Between Shades Of Grey so I have high hopes and, like you I guess, was just waiting for the hype to fade :-)

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    1. I loved Between Shades of Gray, but I loved this one even more.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I like the cover of this one with the sea and stormy sky. Atmospheric!

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    1. The cover is what drew me to it. Also, I can’t pass up books about shipwrecks.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. Yayyy! I'm so excited that you loved this one! I love books that are impactful and also teach me something.

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  11. I'm glad you enjoyed this! I'll have to add it to my TBR!

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  12. I'm glad you loved this one so much because it'a a really hyped book. I will definitely be moving this up on my TBR list.
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. I hope you like it! It’s one of the few books that completely lived up to the hype for me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. I don't read a lot of historical fiction but this one has been on my radar for awhile. And I love when an author can make a villain interesting and not just cheesy or over the top.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Exactly! I love the villain because he’s awful in a believable way.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. How did I not know about this book? Definitely adding to my TBR, great review!

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  15. Thank you for an excellent review! This one is now going on my TBR:)).

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  16. Oh, I loved this book so much too and completely agree with everything you said in this review. I did find it a little bit difficult to get into in the beginning, but after that it stole my heart. I learned about an event in history I knew nothing about before, and the characters captured me. I wanted them all to make it through!! Glad you loved it x

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  17. I LOVED this book! I wasn't sure if I'd be a fan of the super-short chapters/POV switching at first, but it actually worked really well for this story.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  18. This sounds to be a very interesting book!

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