Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

I love books and read a lot. I love logging what I’ve read on Goodreads, but I never review books. I’m not sure why; you know I have strong opinions about what I’ve read. I received an ARC (Advance  Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review and decided I’d also publish it here for all of you to read. As a writer, I know I’ll need readers to do the same for me at some point. Here’s to paying it forward!

Young adult historical fiction, when well-done, is one of my favorite things to read. Sepetys’ newest novel is one of those books. I received an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. The narrative follows the plight of four teens who find themselves together on one of the largest German military transport ships, the Wilhelm Gustloff, in the last year of WWII. Using multiple POVs, the narrative brings each character into the storyline, revealing their desires, secrets, and fears.

Joana is a nurse with surgical skills. As the glue that holds the group together she’s a likable characters with valuable skills in a wartime setting. Florian is a German soldier with a secret that he endeavors to protect at all costs, even if it means using those who’ve shown him kindness along the way. Emilia is a young girl in a terrible predicament given the difficulty of life on the run. With the help of Joana, she finds companionship and safety within the group. Alfred is both my favorite and most despised character. While it took a while to discover how his storyline would connect him to the larger group, his loathsome self-delusion functions as a comment on the ultimate failure of the Third Reich. His narrative is almost comic at times and I loved watching how this played out as the story went on. The characters are well-drawn without being caricatures and there’s enough mystery as to their motivations that their interactions leave room for the reader to wonder who will be left standing in the end.

With a handful of supporting characters, the reader is pulled into the tale of one of the biggest maritime disasters in history. While many readers will be familiar with the sinking of the Titanic, a few others with that of the Lusitania, few will be aware of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The historical record plays a supporting role and Sepetys manages to inform without preaching. Readers are given enough detail to understand the historical record as well as the context, but they won’t be hit over the head with a history textbook either. This is historical fiction done right. For YA readers looking for something beyond romance and for lovers of historical fiction, Salt to the Sea is a read worth your time.

What do you think? Is this something you might add to your ever-growing TBR pile? Are you a writer who relies on the willingness of your readers to review your books? Are you a regular book reviewer? I’d love to hear from you about your experience. As always, tweet, post, or send a smoke-signal. Let me know what you’re thinking.

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11 thoughts on “Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

  1. Oh, that definitely sounds interesting, thanks for the review Gretchen. I also tend to have strong opinions and I suspect that I need to first increase the amount of books I read before thinking about reviews. Currently, life is still fluid and reading time means less writing time. Getting there one day at a time. 😀

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    • I absolutely understand the reading/writing balance. I’ve read that Steven King reads and writes four hours each a day. I’d love to get to that point! Regardless, I’d love it if you threw a few fave titles my way 🙂

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      • Happy to, although I have too many. I loved Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi. I am currently reading Woven Myths: A Slice of Quietude by Sharon Cho and I am greatly enjoying it. Non-fiction I am reading Prosperity for Writers by Honoree Corder and Presence by Amy Cuddy. 😀

        I’d love to be able to read four hours and write for four hours. With a day job things are complicated. Even more, as I am still in the search for a new job. Getting there. Lunch break perhaps? We’ll see. 😀

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      • Those are all new titles to me! Yay 🙂 I hear you about the day job. Totally gets in the way of reading and writing. Darned bills. I know that you will write something amazing in bits and pieces when you make time. Keep me posted on your progress?!

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      • Thank you, Gretchen, I appreciate it. I’m at https://auraeadon.com. Trying to figure a balance between writing my novels and writing for the blog. Blog suffers having only a handful of posts. Massively suffers I should say. Balance. Tricky word. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I am a juggler. 😀

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  2. You and me both. Notice my sadly rare post 😦 But, I am committed to improving that this year…more blogging. More writing. Just more creativity. I’m just starting to read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic with a writing friend today. We’re thinking about starting a podcast series about writing and creative work; we’re planning to start it off with a conversation about our reading of Gilbert’s work. I’m hoping it inspires me to dig in creatively and get some more words down!

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    • Sounds like a lovely idea. Are you working on a novel currently? The writing challenge people on Twitter are an amazing group of writers good for cheering up and getting a minimum of 500 words or 1 hour editing a day. I promise you all it takes is 500 words. I wrote two first drafts in 2015 just following that.

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      • I’m actually doing the 365k challenge w 10-Minute Novelists. They’re a great group. I’m working on a YA thriller based on a true story and querying a YA spec fic to agents. I’m in the thick of it! I just always want to do more, faster, more often! Two first drafts in a year is pretty danged impressive!

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      • That sounds awesome, Gretchen. I hope you get a reply from an agent soon.

        It seems to me that you are already super creative. Oh yes, the 10-Minute Novelists are like the Writing Challenge. I love how writing groups can work so well without restricting the writers.

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      • I will try to channel your good wishes; thank you Aura! See? This is why I need to blog more often–because I get to chat w like-minded artists doing cool stuff. Thank you for cheering me this afternoon 🙂

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