TITLE: Salt To The Sea
AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys
GENRE: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Adventure
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
What I Liked:
- The world-building was so good. I can tell that Sepetys has really done her homework on this little-known maritime tragedy, as well as really looking into Operation Hannibal itself and the mystery of the Amber Room. It really helped to build up the story, as well as make the characters' backstories so much more in-depth and realistic. Even the characters that didn't get their own chapters, such as Ingrid or the Shoe Poet were so interesting and once the group had formed, I became very attached. I read the Author's notes afterwards and I would definitely recommend doing so if you are interested in the whole story. I learnt so much!
- The second half of the book, once the characters met up and begin to interact together, was beautifully woven and flowed so well. It was during this part of the book that I felt totally gripped, especially once they reached the port where they were to board the boat. I really liked Sepetys' writing too, and I found that her character's conversations felt natural and well-structured. Her decision to write the book for a YA audience and from the POVs of teenagers was a really good one. So much Historical Fiction focuses on the adult world, especially during the war. Many teens and children suffered too!
What I Disliked:
- I have to say that to begin with, I wasn't totally sold on this book. In fact, I found myself disappointed because it had received such rave reviews and yet it took me a long time to get into it and understand what was going on. The POV chapters were too short and didn't allow me time to get to know each character, and because at that point the stories didn't intertwine, I got very confused about who was who.
I don't read a lot of wartime fiction, and it's very rare to find one aimed at a YA audience. Sepetys did a great job at finding her audience and I found the entire reading experience educational, informative and shocking in that I had never heard of a tragedy that proved so deadly to so many people. The characters were written beautifully and there came a point where I physically couldn't put the book down I was so desperate to find out what would happen! That being said the beginning didn't really grab me and it's confusing, jumpy layout made it difficult to get into the story. I'm not sure I'm totally satisfied with the ending either, as the letter didn't really provide much closure and I would rather have seen another POV chapter instead to round things off. I'm eager to read 'Between Shades Of Grey', having heard that it features Joana's cousin, Lina!