Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys // Very underwhelming

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys // Very underwhelmingSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 391
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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


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I found each character’s plot line to be very predictable. I knew what was going to happen well before the “big reveal”. It was disappointing. I appreciate what the author was trying to do – shed light on a maritime disaster that no one knows about, while also trying to represent the different walks of life that came together to flee the war.

It didn’t work for me. The plot just never pulled me in. 
Which I will in the categories below.


I never felt fully connected to any of the characters in this book. There were quite a few of them, and almost all had their own perspective. Those alternating perspectives ended up negatively impacting my relationship with the characters. Yeah, they all had a different background and some heartbreaking stories – but those backstories didn’t serve any real purpose to the plot and I never felt emotionally connected to them.

There was the young polish girl who tried to keep a secret through the first half of the book, that I figured out within 2 pages of her chapters. There was the young nurse, who of course is pretty and selfless. There is the young man, who has secrets of his own that can kill him. Then there is Alfred, who was just there to be a character we made fun of.

They all lacked depth. They all lacked individual voices. By the end, all the characters just blended together for me. 

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As I said above, there were multiple perspectives and not only did that impact my connection to the characters but also to the pacing itself. Each chapter was only 2-3 pages long, which led to a very awkward pacing. Due to the lack of plot, the story was a tad slow, but the various perspectives led to quick jumps from scene to scene, day-to-day.

It wasn’t done in an effective way where I was able to follow exactly how long they had traveled. It all seemed to fly by in a choppy way. Even the ending, when the Wilhelm Gustloff sinks, it was so fast and anticlimactic. 

I just wanted much more out of the writing. I expected it to make me feel for the characters and their situations.

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I wasn’t fond of this book. I appreciate the historical merit to it. I understand what the author was trying to do, but it fell flat. The characters lacked any depth or development. The writing was choppy and underwhelming. The plot was predictable, leaving the reveal of each characters secrets boring. If the story focused on one or two perspectives, I would have enjoyed this more. Instead, I felt like the author only skimmed the surface of what could have been a wonderful story.

Rating Report
Overall: 1.5 / 5

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4 thoughts on “Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys // Very underwhelming

  1. ooh that’s sad you didn’t like the book! i really hate it when i don’t like a really hyped book… but i hope you’ll love the next book you’ll read or you’re loving the book you’re reading 🙂
    i just discovered your blog and i really really like it! 🙂

    1. Ah, yes that is super disappointing with that happens. The only reason I even bought this book was because I saw it all over Instagram xD Oh well!

      Also, thank you so much! I’m so glad you like it 🙂 <3

  2. I was a bit meh about this one as well, so I’m sorry to hear that you felt that way too. 🙁 I feel like the chapters were just too short for us to form an emotional connection with the characters, you know? Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    P.S. Have you read her other book Between Shades of Gray? It’s so much better than this one and I’d definitely recommend giving it a try if you’re looking for a emotional and moving historical fiction book to read.

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

    1. YES! Even with the backstory, the characters were just so shallow. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to any of them.

      No, I haven’t read that one yet. I’ll add it to the list 🙂 I hope I like it because I am really trying to get into historical fiction but so far nothing has been good to me :/

      Thanks for stopping by!