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All booksYoung adultSalt to the Sea
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Young adult

Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Quick take

When tragedy strikes, we learn how humanity can prevail even in the darkest hours.

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Book of the Month

Salt to the Sea shows the power of Young Adult books to bring new perspective to real historical events. Four teenagers desperately seek escape from the carnage of World War II. Their paths will converge on the German military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff, as they rush headlong into the greatest maritime disaster in human history. Short, crisp chapters give voice to the struggles of each teenager. And when tragedy strikes, we learn how humanity can prevail even in the darkest hours.

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Synopsis

While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.

Sepetys (writer of 'Between Shades of Gray') crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.

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