The main premise of this book is the tragic bombing of the Wilhelm Gustloff ship which occurred in the Baltic Sea on January 30, 1945. Following three strikes by Russian torpedos, the large ship sank into the freezing waters of the Baltic Sea, bringing down over 10,000 passengers (who were fleeing from the looming Red Army) down with it. This event truly did occur, however many people are unaware of it. That is what I find so amazing about Ruta. She writes about largely forgotten events in history to educate the masses about thousands of lives lost that shouldn't be forgotten. She gives the 9,400 people who drowned in the Baltic Sea a voice after theirs has long since disappeared.
Not only is the premise of the book amazing, but the characters are as well. Salt to the Sea follows four different perspectives, two boys and two girls, each in the teenage to young adult years of their lives. However, since this book takes place in World War II Europe, their circumstances are far from normal. Each character is extremely complex and original. I could immediately tell you which perspective I was reading from even without reading the name at the top of the page due to their distinct ways of thinking and personalities. And, when all their stories started to weave together, I was captivated in seeing how they would interact, and what they thought of one another. In addition, I don't think that any of the perspectives were lacking. Each character was necessary in fully instilling the impact of this novel into the reader as we became attached to certain characters and appalled by others. The fact that I was constantly trying to crack each of the characters' secrets they attempted to cover kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited (rather impatiently) for everything to unfold.
Ruta uses very short chapters in this novel which kept it very fast paced. I managed to finish this book in a day, that's how quickly it flew by. Ruta's superb writing style and use of mystery kept me intrigued throughout the whole thing. Plus, the setting of World War II Europe kept things dangerous and action-packed. I am not going to lie, this book did make me tear up as Ruta highlights the mass amounts of death and tragedy that occurred during the war. Even civilians were treated with unimaginable brutality by soldiers of both the Russian and the German front of the war. It made me realize how lucky I am to be so safe in my suburban town in the United States. I am sheltered and protected from wars that are occurring in other countries, that other children and teenagers don't have the same blessing to be safe from. My heart goes out to them.
I learned a lot from this novel. I, like many others, had never heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff carrying so many civilians and children of the war. Now, I feel the need to ask and tell everyone about it. These innocent people who died on the boat deserve to be remembered just as we remember those who died upon the Titanic and the Lusitania.
Overall, I gave this book a 4.75/5 Stars. It is extremely interesting, fast-paced, and heartbreaking. I recommend this to everyone (especially historical fiction lovers).