Authors We Love: Ruta Sepetys

Ruts Sepetys is one of the most well known young adult historical fiction authors ever! With historical fiction being my favorite genre, I consider myself proud to say that Ruta Sepetys is my favorite author of all time. I have read all of the books she has written and I consider every single one of them to be some of my favorite books. 

Unlike many historical fiction authors, she doesn’t exclusively write about one event in history. With a setting like New Orleans, Barcelona, and Siberia, Sepetys takes us into a plethora of historical events, with different time periods, people, and settings. 

One specific thing I love about historical fiction is you learn something along the way, and all of Ruta Sepetys writes about overlooked events in history. These aren’t things you learn from your history textbook, they’re much more than that. Her books take you on a journey through events like the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that took 10 times the lives the Titanic did, and is the biggest maritime disaster of all time. But for some unknown reason, nobody talks about it, except for Sepetys.

Not only does she shed these huge historical events to light, but she does also these events justice. Although what she writes is fiction, the historical events they’re based on are all too real. Sepetys does an amazing job of research. In her most recent novel, The Fountains of Silence, the back of the book offered more details about her writing and research process, as well as pages of her notes. Sepetys do years and years of research for just one novel, and by reading the books you can tell how much effort was put into them. 

As for her World War Il novels, she has interviewed countless figures, both strangers and family, that were involved in those events, and based some of her books off of real events her family has gone through. 

Another part that I really love about her books is her writing style. With short and quick chapters, the writing allows you to be constantly engaged. The constant point of view switches keep you on your toes and makes every single one of her books a page-turner.

Between Shades of Gray (2011): Not your everyday World War 2 novel, Between Shades of Gray shows the dark side of Polish deportation and labor camps. With a knowledgeable protagonist and a family trying not to fall apart in the face of war, this brutal novel is a must-read. My Rating: 9/10

Out of the Easy (2013): Out of the Easy is a novel describing the life of the daughter of a prostitute longing to be free and live her own life outside of the bustling city of New Orleans. When a customer at her bookstore is found dead, she finally finds the escape she’s been looking for. My Rating: 7/10

Salt to the Sea (2016): The biggest maritime disaster, and the long path refugees are forced to take to flee Germany, this story tells the tale no one wishes to tell about World War 2.  In this novel, everyone has a secret to tell, and with them come guaranteed tears. My Rating: 10/10

The Fountains of Silence (2019): the Fountains of Silence tells the unknown story of how the Spanish people recovered after their own civil war. Told through the eyes of a photographer tourist from Texas, and a hotel employee who works hard for every penny she earns. This novel shows the trials and tribulations of most families during the reconstruction, but the star of this novel is truly the romance. Greatest of all, you get to learn about what’s really happening with the Spanish government behind closed doors. My Rating: 9/10

-Asli B. 

The works of Ruta Sepetys are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

between_shades_grayBetween Shades of Gray is not your everyday World War II book. For example, Hitler and the Jewish people are not the main characters. Instead, this novel focuses on Joseph Stalin. Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Stalin. I thought that Hitler was the only thing going on during this war. Maybe you thought so, too. If so, this is a fantastic historical fiction novel which provides another side of the conflict. It was not only Jews who were affected during this time frame.

The story follows Lina Vilkas and her family through the hardships they face after being deported from Lithuania. After months of travel, in a crowded train car, they are brought to a place much different than Lithuania, and here they are forced to work every day, with a small piece of bread as their payment. After some time, the family is again transported. However, this time to a much harsher climate, where surviving is even more difficult. They face disease, severe weather, the deaths of close ones, and brutal treatment from almost all of the NKVD guards. Through it all, Lina keeps track of what happens in journals and drawings, in hopes that she might one day contact her father again.

This novel is very touching. I would not recommend it if you are sensitive to the somewhat graphic treatment of death in this novel. Stalin’s repressive measures against his people and the imprisonment and execution of “enemies of the Soviet people” were heavy themes throughout the book. Nevertheless, I learned a lot about this important part of history.

My favorite part of the novel was the very end. You’ll have to read it for yourself to understand, but the epilogue was a perfect conclusion to this novel.

-Leila S., 9th grade