Book Review: Salt to the Sea

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Philomel Books
Purchase: Book Depository

This review contains no spoilers.

I just need to start by saying that I loved this book. It was spectacular in all ways and I will never read anything else like it (it also goes on the List of Things That My AP Euro Teacher Wants to Borrow).

I have to brag a little by saying that I’ve met Ruta Sepetys in person two years ago when she came to my school (just after Out of the Easy was published). She’s really amazing and if she comes near you on a tour its worth going to listen to her stories. Mrs. Sepetys puts more effort into researching her books than anyone else I’ve ever heard of, she even joined a program to be put in a work camp simulation that ended with her in a wheelchair for weeks.

The one thing I didn’t like was how the chapters were set up, jumping so quickly from one person to another. All of her books are like that, and I was expecting it. Once it gets going and the story picks up and you learn the characters better its much more enjoyable.

If you’ve not heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff, then let me sum it up to you with the most heart breaking sentence in the entire book (not a spoiler). It comes from page 328.

Torpedo Strike: Approximately 9:15 p.m.
Ship’s Capacity: 1,463
Passengers on Board: 10,573.
Lifeboats: 22.
But then I remembered.
Ten of the lifeboats were missing.

The Wilhelm Gustloff is the greatest sea tragedy you’ve never heard of. I won’t tell you what the death toll is, but its every bit as horrible as you can imagine.

The Saga of My Copy

A little history behind my book. When she visited my school she told us she was writing about the Wilhelm Gustloff and I got excited, really excited. When I heard the publication date – February 2nd – I was a little sad. My birthday is February 3rd and my mom doesn’t usually let me buy anything for the week before my birthday. I woke up on the second and thought ‘I’ll buy a kindle book!’ but I think my  mom expected that and told me not to. The next day at my birthday dinner I received the book I had been waiting for (and promptly finished it within 24 hours).

Status Updates

  •  01/07 marked as: to-read
  • 02/04 marked as: currently-reading
  • 02/04
    • page 18 4.0%
    • “Quack, quack.”
  • 02/04
    • page 82 20.0%
    • “Whoa, plot twist!”
  • 02/04 marked as: read

Writing Tips

  • Break your readers heart. Its what Ruta Sepetys is best at, after all, and she’s beloved by everyone (so is JK Rowling and John Green, I’m seeing a pattern).
  • Research. Remember what I said about meeting Ruta Sepetys? What she talked about? Research. Research. Research. If she can track survivors across the world then you can take a trip to the library.


  • Joanna
    • The Nurse
    • I think her cousin is a reference to Between Shades of Grey, which makes it that much more heartbreaking.
  • Emilia
    • The Polish Girl
    • I’m still not over this, to be honest. The epilogue killed me a little. She didn’t deserve what she got, but thats the truth in war.
  • Alfred
    • The Soldier
    • He got what was coming to him, in my humble opinion. Of course, only a true madman would think a girl would love him.
  • Florian
    • The Artist
    • I really identify with Joanna on this one. There were times I wanted to strangle him and times I wanted to kiss him.
    • The Amber Room is a very real artifact and a very real mystery, however, the latest intelligence that I could find suggest it was destroyed. Luckily for us we can see pictures of it on the internet.
  • Poet
    • The Shoemaker
    • The good characters are always the ones who have to die, aren’t they? I fully believe that he knew what fate awaited him when he jumped from the ship.

I leave you with this final thought from M*A*S*H.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Salt to the Sea

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