Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Publisher: Philomel Books 
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: ARC Trade
Pages: 400

Summary (from Goodreads):

The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, 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 each other 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.

Wow. This book was so good. It seriously punched me in the feels. I am ruined. This book was nearly impossible to put down. The chapters are very short, which makes it really easy to tell yourself "JUST ONE MORE!" But one more was just NEVER ENOUGH! I couldn't flip the pages of this book fast enough!

This book is about the unknown tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I can't believe I really had never heard of this before picking up this book. How is this so little known?? Like, 4 times as many people died as in the Titanic! Unreal! 

This book follows the stories of four very different people who were all affected by this tragedy.

Joana is a native of Lituania, but was allowed to repatriate to Prussia thanks to her heritage. She worked as a surgeon's assistant and has valuable medical training. She is plagued by guilt for leaving her family, but she keeps going, hoping she might be reunited with her family someday.

Florian is a native of Prussia. When we meet him, he is suffering from a shrapnel wound and has a bit of a fever. He is lucky to meet up with Joana and her crew because he needs her medical training. He is very secretive about himself and what he is up to. He doesn't want to get close to anyone. He is kind of hard to trust, but he keeps letting little pieces of himself out and doing kind things for people and showing that he really might not be such a bad dude.

Emilia is amazeballs. She is so so so strong and brave and has been through HELL and still she keeps going. She is saved from a Russian soldier with bad intentions by Florian and she latches onto him. Despite how desperately he tries to get rid of her, she won't be left behind. I could go on and on about how awesome Emilia is, but I fear that I will reach spoiler territory if I go on.

Alfred is... I don't even know what to say. His point of view just made me ill. He is a Nazi working as a crew member on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Most of his point of view is told through imaginary letters he is writing in his head to some girl back home that he is infatuated with, but probably doesn't even know he exists. He thinks VERY highly of himself. He makes himself out to be this big hero doing SO much for the war effort when in reality, he is just a coward with the lowest ranking who spends hours sitting in the bathroom, not contributing to anything. He is WORTHLESS and thinking about him makes me SO ANGRY! Sometimes something will pop up in his narrative that makes you feel kinda bad for him because maybe he's just kinda weird, but then something right after that makes you wanna go F*CK YOU ALFRED!

There were several other important characters in this book who were all so great as well, but I will be here all day if I keep going on about them. Just know that the only character that you really are going to want to hit is Alfred, everyone else is so strong and brave and motivated to survive. I want to hug everyone in this book.

There is a little bit of a developing romance in this book. It's sweet and develops slowly. It's not a main thing in this book as each character is more focused on survival rather than finding love.

The writing in this book is fantastic. When I started this one, I was really afraid that I wasn't going to like the multiple points of view in this one. I had a feeling in the beginning that I was going to have trouble telling the characters apart, especially with each chapter being so short, but I was worried for nothing. I thought the characters were so well written and the story was well researched. I just loved everything about this.

I don't think I could come up with anything bad about this. I seriously loved it. If I had to say one thing, I could have done without Alfred, if only because he made me want to kick a puppy.

Overall, this book was fantastic. I will definitely be picking up the rest of this author's books. If you like WWII historical fiction, tragedies similar to the Titanic, and books that will make you cry for days, you ought to pick this one up because it is all of those things and SO MUCH MORE!


  1. Not reading your review too closely because I do want to read this one. ;D But I am very happy to see that you gave it five stars! I usually don't even want to attempt with books set during the World War II time period, but Ruta is such a great writer. Hopefully I can read this one soon!

    Lovely review, Cyra. :)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. Omg yes you need to read this! It's so absolutely amazing! I can't even stress how much I adored this book!


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