Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys. New York:  Penguin Young Readers, 2016.  400p.  ISBN 9780399160301 hc. $18.99  Gr. 7-12  YA FIC

The recipe for great historical fiction begins with an author who just happened to be doing some family research and discovered the sinking of the ocean liner, Wilhelm Gustloff, near the end of World War II (1945), an incident that is not well known by Americans.  Add four substantial characters with different backgrounds and perspectives (and secrets of their own) who each tell their tales, filling in bits of history to make the story complete. Florian, Joana, and Emilia are all refugees who end up traveling together to reach the northern coast of Poland, where they can board a ship to Germany - and safely.  The journey is arduous, especially for Emilia whose pregnancy becomes more apparent with every day, and forces them to modify the social and moral boundaries of their previous lives.  The fourth character is Alfred, a young follower of Hitler and a bully, who thinks he’s finally found his place in the world as a Nazi supporter.  Four stories intertwine to narrate the suspenseful journey through occupied territory to gain a chance for survival on the refugee ship.  In addition to the historical information at the back of the book, learn more about the Wilhelm Gustloff at www.wilhelmgustloff.com.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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