Thursday Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (HUB Reading Challenge Book #2)

This is the second book I have read for the 2017 HUB Reading Challenge. This book certainly deserves the accolades it is receiving, as it was expertly crafted. This was such an amazing, well written, and well researched historical fiction book. I listened to it on audiobook, and I was so glad I chose that medium.

Salt to the Sea is an historical fiction novel about the greatest maritime tragedy in history, even more so than the infamous Titanic, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Of the 9,000+ people who died in the sinking, 5,000 were estimated to be children. I had never even heard of it until I read this book!

The book is written from the perspective of 4 different young adults during WWII. Alfred, an unlikeable psycho Nazi, Joana, a caring nurse who dreams of being a doctor, Emilia, a young pregnant Polish girl, and Florian, a mysterious Prussian young man. Sepetys cycles through each perspective, with each character getting their own dedicated chapter before switching perspectives in the next. Listening to the audiobook allowed this style to really shine. Each character was voiced by a different person, so it was so easy to follow along. The voice actors were amazing, and I really enjoyed listening! Reading the book itself may be a bit confusing at first for some, so if you find frequent switches in perspective confusing I would recommend listening on audiobook...or even if you don't mind the should still listen to it (it was sooooo good).

The bulk of the story is the harrowing journey the characters take (3 of them) to even get to the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is just one of the many ships evacuating people from East Prussia to Germany (as the Russians are invading). I loved getting to know each character as the story progressed, and reading about their inspiring efforts to survive. Although these particular characters are fictional, I can imagine that Sepetys has captured what people in their same situation may have experienced.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I would highly recommend this book. And listen to the audiobook! Also there is a common character from Sepetys' other book, Between Shades of Grey. If you read and enjoyed that book, you must read this one. Go to the library. Now. Read it.

-Stephanie Chadwick, Teen Librarian