Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Narrated By: Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron,
Cassandra Morris, Michael Crouch
Length: 8 hours, 47 minutes
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: August 1, 2017
Murder, Genocide, Death, Racism, Childbirth,
Rape, Child Violence
Polish, Lithuanian, German, Latvian
(not sure if this counts but I'm putting it here!)
TBR Readathon: Bestseller's List
Hogwarts House Battle: Genre I Wouldn't Normally Pick Up

This is the first ever Ruta Sepetys book that I read, and I felt like I should see if I like her style before buying The Fountains of Silence because of the gorgeous cover.

Joana (Lithuanian) has medical training and is traveling with a group of refugees trying to escape the war to safety. She does what she can to make sure that Emilia gets on a ship safely without any of the Germans knowing what she really is.

Florian (Prussian) seems to be a German deserter, but there’s something else that’s involved with him. He’s also really good at forging official documents/paintings, stuff like that. That will come in handy. He saved Emilia’s life, and now she won’t leave him alone.

Emilia (Polish) was first shown to us in a cave, about to be killed by a Russian soldier. What we don’t realize until later on is that she’s a 15 year old girl, and about 8 months pregnant. She calls Florian the “Knight” because he saved her from that Russian soldier, and Joana is her nurse and keeps her safe.

Alfred is a Nazi Sailor. We hear from him mostly through letters to his neighbor Hanalora. I don’t like him. I feel like he’s easily manipulated and I don’t even really know what else to say about him.

WWII from the German side. We follow the story of four different people, from four different backgrounds, all trying to get to safety. Sometimes I think people need to remember that every single German person wasn’t a Nazi, and that not all people IN Germany agreed with what was going on in the Nazi party. They were victims too, and had to go through hell to even survive.


Gunshots, Explosions, etc.

I liked hearing from Joana, Florian and Emilia (for the most part). I feel like Joana was the most level-headed person out of all of them, even though Florian was smart and did what he had to do. I just felt more for Joana than anyone. I felt bad for Emilia, and I’m really so glad that Joana kept her under her wing, and that Florian ended up realizing that she wasn’t going to just leave him. She actually had his back in a situation, and protected one of his secret from the rest. I like that they were able to help one another.

Oh, I also felt like each narrator matched their characters really well! I don’t know who played who – because it’s not showing me right now – but wow. They did such an amazing job. I think Joana was my favorite, but it almost sounded like she was congested? I don’t know. I just liked her the most.

I literally hate Alfred. Why do I need to hear about him? Why does he sound like a borderline pedophile about his neighbor Hanalora? Why is he creepy AF? Like, why?

I’m sad about certain situations in this book, but if they weren’t included, it wouldn’t be believable during this time period. I also just… felt really terrible about Ingrid.

This book is not a fun one, guys. It deals with war, and one of the worst wars in human history. Don’t think there are going to be things to make you smile a lot in here.

I kind of didn’t like the romance between Florian and Joana that was “blossoming” or whatever. I felt like it wasn’t realistic, and idk. Wasn’t my thing. I may just not like romance, fam.

They told me I had to choose which child to come with me! How can I choose?

That probably isn’t the correct verbiage since I’m listening to the audiobook and I was driving at the time that I read that, but holy shit. Could you imagine being told “Nah, fam. You can only choose one of your children to go with you to safety. The others have to die and be alone. Choose wisely.”

Babies were used as pawns, passed from one person to the next as they approached for registration. A woman grabbed my arm. “How much for the kid? They won’t let me on if I don’t have a kid.”

Florian and a Woman

I was listening to this at work, and when I first heart the part about babies being used as pawns, I had to stop and rewind that part. I mean… wow. Who did these babies belong to, and were people really selling their kids to others to make a quick buck? Was this so that more people could actually register to get out of danger? Or was it the greed factor? I mean… they still couldn’t take everyone on each ship, no matter how over capacity each ship was. They weren’t allowing people who were contagious on the ship, but what if they had a kid? Then what?

Mothers tried hurling their infants to passengers up on deck, but they couldn’t throw high enough. Their babies smashed against the side of the ship and plunged into the sea. Women screamed and dove into the water after the children.

The horror that Florian Saw when the guslav Left

My god. I can’t even imagine that. And Florian never mentioned whether those babies and mothers ended up finding their way back to the surface. These people were left for dead, and they tried to save their babies but ended up making it worse.

I feel like this book passed me in a blur for the most part. And then the parts that really stood out to me, I mentioned above because they were so graphic and terrible that I had to remember that this is based on a true story, you know? Like, this isn’t something so far fetched, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there was evidence to show that those certain things did actually happen. It just really broke my heart, but I feel like there’s so many books about WWII and I don’t know if I would say that it romanticizes Germany during that time, but there’s so many books about WWII Germany and showing the non-Nazis of Germany, but what about other wars that affected POC? Or like, what about WWII but how it affected Japan? I don’t know. I have certain thoughts about books like this, and I don’t know why I read it, but I didn’t hate it. I just have some feelings apparently.

Also wow, this review is crap balls so I’m sorry.

Yay I finally found it! So Nicole @ A Myriad of Books first tagged my review for The Lady Rogue on her review, and I thought that was such a nice and great idea to do that for other books that I’ve read! I only made the graphic recently, but I want to do a better job at spreading more reviews and blogs around, so I’ll be adding this to the end of my reviews. Thanks again Nicole for this idea! All credit goes to her for this.

24 thoughts on “Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

    1. I’m honestly really glad that we don’t hear from him too much, you know? I feel terrible about it, but some of his thoughts were just completely terrible! It made sense why he agreed so much with the Nazi Party and their goals.

      No I haven’t. Is that also from Ruta Sepetys?


    1. Yeah it really was. I was trying not to cry while driving or at work because I don’t always advertise what I’m reading (especially at work because I don’t want people to think I’m not working but I can just listen to books while I work any day of the week lol). Thanks so much for reading my review. I definitely think the trigger warnings alone would be too much for a lot of people, and the deaths can be pretty graphic as well.


  1. Well I think I can safely skip this book- I didn’t realize this book was set during that time period- which I really find too depressing to read. (Mostly because I hate how so many of these themes are still relevant.)

    But! I have to wonder if parents were selling their children in hopes that they were going on to a better life somewhere away?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I totally understand that! I definitely wouldn’t hold it against you if you didn’t read it. I think I just wanted to read a book by Ruta Sepetys before I tried her new one The Fountains of Silence. It gives me an idea of how she writes these historical fiction novels, although I personally didn’t see how this one was considered YA.

      Well… They were selling them to other people so those people could get on the boat as well. I think the thought was that as long as more people are able to be saved, then why not share your kids around? But also make some money off of it. I don’t really know how to explain it. Also, who knows if those kids ended up getting back to their parents, or ended up on the boat anyways, you know?


    1. That’s the vibe I got from him honestly, although I don’t think Hanalora’s age was ever mentioned so I may be wrong about that! I’m sorry. Just the way that he would watch her from his bathroom window and was just so obsessed with her, and the way he wrote his letters to her made me feel like she was a child almost, but i don’t even know.

      Thank youuuuu!!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! My first book by Sepetys was Between Shades of Gray and it absolutely crushed me. I’m a big fan of historical fiction and I learned so much about another side of this horrendous war that I’d never heard of before. It never gets less horrifying to think that these atrocious acts actually happened. People are so so cruel. This has only convinced me to read Salt to the Sea asap!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG Dini I feel like everyone is telling me to read that one – and that I should have read that one first honestly lol. I think I need other kinds of historical fiction or something, because that one was hard for me to get through and I kept wanting to put it aside indefinitely but I pushed myself to finish it so it wasn’t just sitting there. I can’t wait to hear what you end up thinking about it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally get what you mean. These historical fictions can be pretty hard to get through so it totally makes sense that you need to take a break from reading them! Lol I don’t think it’s necessarily a ‘should’ve read it first’ book but I’d say it’s defo a ‘should read it at least once’ book 😂 it’s not going anywhere though, so you can take your time! Lol 🥰

        Liked by 1 person

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