Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

*This website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn a small commission when you click through affiliate links. Please read more in our disclaimer.

Recommended by Fiona Ritson (@AlwaysLearnWeb)

Form and genre: prose, war (based on a true story)

Length: 400 pages

Summary: 1945 Four teens, each with their own dark secret, narrate their stories whilst trekking across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War.

Age recommendation and challenging content: The author doesn’t shy away from the horrors people faced during the war, such as references to the fact the army routinely raped (the word itself isn’t used, but it’s obvious) women in the countries they were occupying. People are shot at, drown, and die of injuries and sickness. Although there are only a few kisses, there’s a teen pregnancy in the story. Readers will learn a great deal about aspects of WWII that aren’t as frequently discussed, such as the Red Army advancing, what happened to ethnic Germans in the Baltic States, and the circumstances surrounding this wartime tragedy. Would recommend for Y8.

Notable reasons for recommending this book:

Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award. Based on true events – the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the deadliest maritime disaster in history.