Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
When I was an early teenager books like this were not marketed to us. Maybe we weren’t considered a demographic yet, I don’t know. What I do know is there are books that have an intended audience of middle to high school age and adults discover them. Think Book Thief. I have a very hard time convincing adults that book was intended for the 12 and up group. Maybe we just don’t think our kids can handle that kind of history and maybe we are still trying to handle it ourselves.
Either way, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is just as deep, just as harrowing, just as thought provoking and I believe it will soon be discovered and embraced by adult readers.
Salt to the Sea is set in 1945 at the end of WWII, with the advance of the Russian army bent on revenge and destroying everything and everyone in its path. Tens of thousands flee for safety and many thousands make their way to German ships taking on refugees and wounded soldiers for evacuation.
The four young people represented in this story are all making their way to the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Joana, a Lithuanian nurse, Florian, a young man frantic to stay out of the German’s way because he is smuggling a priceless piece of art, Amelia, a young Polish girl who is pregnant and Alfred a member of the German navy aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, who composes in his head imaginary self-inflating letters to a girl back home. It is imperative for their survival that they make it onto this ship.
I’ve read some sad stories in my time, but the fact this story has been almost forgotten only adds to the angst. One of the blurbs in the book said books like this are the reasons teens read, it has everything. I truly believe if I were not sitting here telling you who the intended audience was you would embrace it and talk about it and book group it yourselves. If you don’t, you’re the one missing out.