Salt to the Sea


Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea is such a good book!  This is the second book I have read by Ruta Sepetys, and she is a phenomenal author.  Everything of hers is so well written!  One of the things that I thought was so fantastic about this book is that not only is the fictional part of the story really well done, but the historical part is fascinating.  Despite being the largest maritime disaster in history, I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff and its sinking.  As soon as I finished this book, I started Googling to find out more!

I loved this book so much that the next book I picked up (which I did end up enjoying) I felt resentful towards at first, because it wasn’t Salt to the Sea, and I still wanted to be in that story!

Author Ruta Sepetys.

From what I can tell, the book is faithfully historically accurate.  In the research I did after reading, much of what I saw was included in the book.  But it was woven in to the story in such a gripping way that it seemed like it was effortlessly part of the story, rather than trying to cram facts in to make them fit.  It is really beautifully done.

The setting is absolutely integral to the story, given the time that these events took place.  The characters are believable, and you find yourself rooting for them (well, most of them, anyway).  The social issues of the time are incredibly relevant to the story, especially the racism and genocide.

This book is such a moving portrayal of events in our history that many people know nothing about.  Since finishing the book, I have asked a number of people if they have heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and none have (and then I rave on and on about this book!).  I would highly recommend this book – certainly to anyone who likes historical fiction, but also to anyone who likes a gripping, imaginative, heart-wrenching tale.


Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman is a powerful and moving look at mental illness. I have read a fair number of Neal’s other books, and this one is quite different from those I have read. So if you are a Neal Shusterman fan, I would go into this book without expectations of what you think you know about his writing – this one will defy them!

Challenger Deep is realistic fiction, but because we are in Caden’s head, there are things that seem fantastical, or things where we can’t tell what is reality and what is not.  In some ways this is a difficult book to get into, because at the start of the book there is nothing to ground the reader.  We jump right in with Caden and struggle, as he does, to sort fact and fiction.  But it is definitely worth sticking with it, because the story is so touching.

Neal Shusterman
Author Neal Shusterman

This book has believable characters and there aren’t the stigmas or stereotypes often associated with mental illness.  The problems the characters face are realistic, and how they handle those problems is realistic as well.  Although the story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, given the circumstances, it has a hopeful and satisfying conclusion.

This is a good story for young adults to read.  For those who struggle with mental illness, it is a mirror where they can see their story told.  For others, it’s a window to see into the life of a character with mental illness, and to empathize.

The fact that Neal Shusterman’s son went through some of the same things that Caden did makes this book especially poignant.  His son Brendan’s drawings complement the story well and are a nice addition. In the end, despite the sadness and hardships, this book really feels like it is about hope and familial love.