Thursday, October 8, 2015

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

From the publisher: 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.

Has everyone else out there already heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff? Because I most certainly had not, before reading this book.  I'm talking never - not a thing.  And to find out that it represents the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history... from a YA novel? Amazing.

Salt to the Sea works on a variety of levels. First, just as a narrative, it's gripping in all the right ways for a teen reader: the story is told from multiple points of view (each of which is easily identifiable), has lots of drama, moves along at a very quick pace, and has a sense of closure at the end. Second, the book works as a straight-up history lesson. And finally it serves as a lesson in the importance of history, of how if we don't pass along stories of atrocities people are doomed to repeat them.

Historical fiction has always been a poison in my reading life, and Ruta Sepetys appears to be the antidote. I have loved everything she's written and always look forward to seeing what she does next. I read an advanced reading copy of Salt to the Sea; it comes out in stores on February 2nd, 2016.

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