Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

“No one wanted to fall into the hands of the enemy. But it was growing harder to distinguish who the enemy was.”

Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea

Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genres: Historical Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult
Pages: 379 (Paperback)
Published: February 2nd, 2016

My Rating: ★★★★¾
Read: 6/18/2023 – 6/25/2023


Ruta Sepetys has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her books stand out from others in the genre thanks to the lesser-known/talked about events she chooses to build her plots around. 

Joana, Florian, and Emelia narrate their journeys learning up to their departure on the fated Wilhelm Gustloff. In contrast to them is Alfred, a Nazi assigned to the ship. While Alfred’s section of the book is largely focuses on his career and his ‘promised’ future, Joana, Emelia, and Florian’s stories focus on their pasts and hopes of escape. 

Despite the extremely short chapters, I found the story was slow to build. Toward the last third, it picked up immensely. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the worst disaster in maritime history with a death toll nearing 10,000. Ruta Sepetys does a wonderful job of capturing the tragedy. Although the book is about fictional characters, the reader still gets a sense of the individuals who suffered through it. 

Compared to The Fountains of Silence and I Must Betray You, it took a significantly longer time for me to get wholly into the plot given how quickly the four POVs jumped around. The lead-in and backstories took up most of the pages. The wait was well worth it even though it’s a heartbreaking read. 

Likes & Dislikes

What I liked:

  • Centered on a lesser discussed part of history.
  • There was an element of mystery in discussing the Amber Room.
  • Sweet characters (aside from Alfred).

What I didn’t like:

  • I could have done without Alfred’s POV. For me, he distracted from the other characters and his part could have been played out the same without knowing his thoughts.
  • Too many POVs for how short each chapter is.


I feel like I’m working my way through Ruta Sepetys’ books too quickly! I’ll read anything she writes.

Where to buy the book:

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