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Ages 12 and up
Between Shades of Gray meets Titanic in this epic WWII-era novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating—yet unknown—maritime tragedies.
It’s 1945 in East Prussia. World War II is drawing to a close as Russian forces overtake the Germans, and thousands of refugees are on a frantic trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among the throngs of people seeking safety are Joana, Emilia, and Florian: each one borne of a different homeland, yet equally desperate to escape a life marked by brutality and war. As their paths converge en route to the Wilhelm Gustloff—the former cruise ship that promises each character’s salvation and future just beyond the Baltic Sea—the three are forced by circumstance to unite, and with each step closer toward safety, their strength, courage, and trust in each other are tested.
Yet just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, Russian torpedoes strike the massive ship. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival. Most will not make it.
Told in four alternating POVs, Ruta Sepetys delivers a masterful work of historical fiction inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the single greatest maritime disaster in history (far more deadly than the sinking of Titanic). Just as she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.
Gorgeously written, captivating historical fiction set in the waning days of WWII that tells the story of several teens, each from a different country and with their own agenda and secrets, trying to secure a spot on the Wilhelm Gustloff passenger ship out of Germany. The Russians are advancing and each of their lives has been irreversibly changed by their journeys. This is a side of history that few know about. Deeply moving and highly recommended for educators and teens. Due to mature themes, for 12 and up only.