This powerful, gorgeously written exploration of a little-known WWII tragedy proves why with only three books, Ruta Sepetys has emerged as a preeminent historical novelist in young adult literature. Salt to the Sea, which includes meticulously detailed author's notes, maps, and research and sources, is an ideal blend of historical facts, riveting drama, compelling characters, and suspense. Similar to when you watch Titanic for the first time, you know the ship is doomed but not exactly how the fictional characters will fare within that tragedy. In Joana, Emilia, and Florian, Sepetys has created three diverse characters who ultimately bond and care for each other. Once again, Sepetys adds touches of humor and romance to her history, and it works beautifully.
This is a book parents should read with their teens and recommend to school media specialists and English teachers. It has so much to offer teen and adult readers, and it's a perfect companion novel to Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray, set in 1941 in a Siberian forced-larbor camp. In fact, those who've read that novel will recognize one of the main characters in Salt to the Sea. By focusing on aspects of WWII that are less saturated in historical fiction, Sepetys provides readers with a way to connect to the day-to-day battle civilians had to fight on all sides. This is a story of humanity in the face of unthinkable horror, of love blossoming in the midst of hatred, of kindness turning strangers into family. Read it, talk about it, and treasure that authors like Sepetys have chosen to write specifically for young adult readers.