Saturday, February 11, 2017

Salt to the Sea

For those of you who don't know, I was a double major in college with English and history. For my history major, I focused a lot on World War II (and medieval European history. I'm such a renaissance woman). So when I read historical fiction, most often it's set in WWII. Now, I don't read a ton of historical fiction, and I'm trying to change that since as I get older settings mean more and more to me. Now, I'll try to do my best to recall this book for the review, but it has been a while since I've read it (see previous post about falling off the reviewing wagon).

Retrieved from Goodreads
In the winter of 1945, four teens work their way toward boarding the Wilhelm Gustlov, a ship that will take them away from the war. They each have their own secrets, and all have experienced the atrocities of World War II. But the road to the Gustlov is littered with the SS, with bombs, with people desperate to do anything to survive. And the Gustlov might not be the haven it seems.

It has been a really long time since I read this book, so I'm sorry if I'm not super specific here. But I enjoyed this book. I tend to like stories with many characters all converging on the same point. It can be so satisfying when all of the threads pull together and you see the big picture the author has been painting the entire time. There's something so chilling about the SS officer's letters to his "girl back home." He is a true believer in the beliefs the Reich espouses. But mostly because believing them gives him power to overlook his own shortcomings. Like he was a weakling who actually holds a very low post in the army and has a skin condition and no one likes him. The other three characters were a little touch and go for me. There's a pregnant young girl who felt rather one-note to me. But the slow reveal of her story and the reality of her pregnancy was satisfying. There's the nurse and the boy who accidentally helped steal museum artifacts. And their romance...meh. I didn't care very much. The looming setting of the war was much more interesting to me, and the reason this book doesn't get 5 stars is because it felt rather detached. Having studied the horrors of WWII, this book just didn't hit quite the right note for me. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters enough for the tragedy of the journey to the Gustlov, and then the tragedy that happens afterward to have the emotional punch. It's like when I watch the last half of Titanic. Rose and Jack mattered far less to me than the old couple holding hands in the bed as their room filled with water. So, while an interesting WWII YA, not my favorite book of all time.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

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