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Salt to the Sea
Contributor(s): Sepetys, Ruta
ISBN: 0142423629     ISBN-13: 9780142423622
Publisher: Speak
    OUR PRICE: $9.89  
Product Type: Paperback
Published: August 2017
Annotation: Racing to freedom with thousands of other refugees as Russian forces close in on their homes in East Prussia, Joana, Emilia, and Florian meet aboard the doomed Wilhelm Gustloff and are forced to trust each other in order to survive.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
World War, 1939-1945; Juvenile fiction.
World War, 1939-1945; Fiction.
Refugees; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: bl2017031418
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 8.00" H x 5.00" W x 1.00" (1.00 lbs) 418 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 179545
Reading Level: 4.5   Interest Level: Upper Grades   Point Value: 10.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q68133
Reading Level: 5.2   Interest Level: Grades 9-12   Point Value: 17.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s):

Ruta Sepetys ( was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. She is the award-winning, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. Ruta lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter at @RutaSepetys.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2016 Fall)
The stories of four young adults converge in this illumination of a little-known WWII tragedy. As Russian soldiers push Nazi forces back, Eastern European refugees flee toward the hope of evacuation by sea on the Wilhelm Gustloff, a vessel destined to sink. This elegiac tale succeeds with impressive research, affecting characters, and keen insights into humans' counterposed tendencies toward evil and nobility.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2016 #1)
The stories of four young adults—each haunted by a secret—converge in this heartbreaking illumination of a little-known WWII tragedy. As Russian soldiers push Nazi forces back to the Baltic Sea, thousands of refugees from the occupied Eastern European countries—including Prussian defector Florian; Emilia, fifteen and pregnant, from Poland; and Joana, a young Lithuanian woman valued for her medical skills—flee toward the slim hope of evacuation by sea. The narrative gains momentum as the travelers near their destination: the port of Gotenhafen (where they encounter Alfred, an inept Nazi soldier who constructs elaborate delusions of his own valor in imagined love letters to an unseen beloved) and ultimately the Wilhelm Gustloff, a vessel destined to sink in the icy Baltic Sea, killing an estimated nine thousand passengers, mostly civilians. Sepetys's (Between Shades of Gray, rev. 5/11) scene-setting is impeccable; the penetrating cold of the journey is palpable, and she excels at conveying the scope of the losses while giving them a human face. Accordingly, each plot thread is a door to a larger history: Florian's secret relates to the systematic Nazi looting of precious art; Emilia, persecuted by both sides (German and Russian), illustrates Poland's plight. Despite a few jarring flaws—in particular, a blind girl whom the author gifts with impossibly heightened other senses—this elegiac tale succeeds with impressive research, affecting characters, and keen, often unsettling insights into humans' counterposed tendencies toward evil and nobility. Readers will be left to discuss which impulse triumphs here. claire e. gros Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2015 November #2)

Sepetys delivers another knockout historical novel, after Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, that offers insight into the ugly realities of WWII and culminates with a forgotten event, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Set in East Prussia during the brutal winter of 1945, in the waning days of the conflict, and tautly narrated by four strong, distinct voices, the narrative highlights the plight of refugees as Germany tries to evacuate soldiers and civilians: "The brutality was shocking. Disgraceful acts of inhumanity. No one wanted to fall into the hands of the enemy. But it was growing harder to distinguish who the enemy was." The narrators include Florian, a Prussian boy carrying a secret parcel; traumatized 15-year-old Amelia, a Polish girl without papers who hides a mysterious pregnancy; Joana, a repatriated 21-year-old Lithuanian nurse, who believes she's a murderer; and Alfred, a German soldier who imagines writing self-important missives to a girl back home. Their stories collide—first as the three refugees travel through the countryside with a larger group, and then as they try to gain passage on Alfred's ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is doomed to maritime disaster with casualties exceeding those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined. Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty. Ages 12–up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2016 December)

Gr 8 Up—In East Prussia at the end of World War II, a group of refugees are desperately making their way toward the one chance they have at survival: passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff. Braving the unforgiving elements, violent soldiers, and an uncertain future, Joana, Emilia, and Florian narrate their harrowing journey, along with unsettling chapters from Alfred, a Nazi sailor. Sepetys brings to vivid life the events and repercussions of this little-known piece of 20th-century history.

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2015 December)

Gr 8 Up—With the same lyrical prose, eye for detail, and breath-stopping ability to unfold delicate layers of characterization and theme with skillfully paced revelations, the author of Between Shades of Gray (2011) and Out of the Easy (2013, both Philomel) presents a fictionalized World War II story based on a true tragedy. In alternating narratives, four different teens grapple with the bitter cold, the ever-present danger of falling bombs, and their own dark secrets. There's Joana, a pretty and empathetic Lithuanian nurse who harbors a heavy guilt; Florian, a mysterious young man struggling to hide his true identity; Amelia, a pregnant Polish girl; and Alfred, a sociopathic Nazi sailor with an inferiority complex. Along with a fully realized cast of secondary characters who comprise the small band of refugees slowly making their way through the frozen and battle-scarred Prussian countryside, Joana, Florian, and Amelia are determined to get aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers at the tail end of the war. Alfred, meanwhile, a low-ranking officer stationed aboard the ship, avoids work by hiding in the toilets, composing imaginary and boastful letters to a girl back home. Each voice is distinct, and Sepetys unwinds their individual backstories slowly and with care. As the relationships among the refugees strengthen and they begin to trust one another, vulnerabilities are revealed—some of them life-threatening. Observations of war and loss, human cruelty, and hatred are unflinching. But through the horror and heartbreak shine rays of hope: love, kindness, courage, and sacrifice. VERDICT Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys's exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

[Page 128]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.