It’s no secret that I am obsessed with Ruta Sepetys’ books. I talk about her on my YouTube channel a lot and I pretty much gush to all my students about her work. Why do I love her so much? Because I don’t read historical fiction very much. Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE learning about history and would’ve majored in it in college if my high school counselor hadn’t told me that I’d never get a job with a Social Studies degree. But I often find historical fiction to be a little cheesy for my taste–the dialogue can seem overdone while the plot often looks forced. But Ruta’s historical fiction books have just blown me away.
You love historical fiction? You need to read Ruta Sepetys.
You don’t love historical fiction? You need to read Ruta Sepetys.
You want to learn something you didn’t know about before? You need to read Ruta Sepetys.
Noticing a trend here? Here are 5 reasons why you must read Ruta Sepetys’ books.
1–Ruta uncovers unknown history.
Well, unknown to most of us. Her historical fiction books don’t simply present the same stories we’ve heard time and time again. Instead, she unpacks a part of history that often gets ignored so that generations don’t forget about them. Her first published book, Between Shades of Gray, exposes how Joseph Stalin murdered Lithuanians during WWII and sent many to Siberia to work in forced labor camps. Her latest, Salt to the Sea, also features WWII and shares how the Wilhelm Gustlaff ship that carried over 10,000 refugee passengers was sunk by a Soviet submarine, killing over 9,000 people and becoming the world’s largest maritime disaster. Both WWII books cover a time period we’re relatively familiar with, but so many people are unaware of these particular wartime stories. And her second book Out of the Easy takes place in 1950s French Quarter New Orleans…in an upscale brothel–when have you ever read a book about that?!
2–Ruta’s writing style is beautiful and well-crafted.
I met Ruta a few years ago while she was touring for Out of the Easy. She revealed that she often speaks out her dialogue before writing it down and even records herself while driving, waiting on planes, etc. so that she is constantly thinking through her characters’ minds and staying focused on her novel. It works. Her words are so beautifully formed and I am always fully invested in her characters. Her writing style grabs me from the first page. Her prose and word choice are just lovely.
3–Ruta’s first book will soon be a movie.
I know this may seem like a silly reason to read an author’s book, but I so often hear “I wish I would’ve read the book before seeing the movie!” And unfortunately I’ve had some friends decide not to read a book because they know it’s already out in movie form and therefore they feel behind. Between Shades of Gray will be re-titled Ashes in the Snow and is currently in the filming process. Don’t miss out on reading the book ahead of time!
4–Ruta will get you feeling all the feels.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to read Ruta’s books without feeling some emotion. Each of her books has moments of sweetness, tragedy, surprise, heartbreak, and desperation. One line in Between Shades of Gray forced me to just put the book down for a few minutes and think. Out of the Easy kept me both smiling and curious. And Salt to the Sea? Well I think I felt everything in that book. Ruta moves you to look beyond the historical event/time period itself and really emotionally attach.
5–Ruta redefines family.
We all know that families can come in different people, and that has been fully explored in Ruta’s three books. Whether it’s blood relatives, fellow survivors, family co-workers–the idea of family goes beyond the norm. The protagonist in Out of the Easy is basically raised by a brothel of prostitutes, but they really feel more like a house full of mothers. Three teens from different countries grasp onto each other in Salt to the Sea during their trek across East Prussia. An orphaned child, a solo old man, a widowed shoemaker–all examples of non-blood relatives in community families. And isn’t that true of real life? We can often find “family” in our friendships, neighborhoods, and workplaces.
Ok, I’ve talked about Ruta Sepetys enough this week. But seriously–check her out! She just might change the way you look at history.
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