“World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people — adults and children alike — aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.” (Summary from Amazon.)
I’m a sucker for a good World War II story, and this one approaches the conflict from a unique (to me) perspective: it focuses on three Eastern European teenagers who are caught between Nazi Germany and the advancing Red Army. My favorite character was Florian, who is carrying out a secret mission while trying very hard not to fall in love with Joana. But I honestly enjoyed all three main characters’ stories, especially after they meet up and continue their westward journey together. There are definitely some heartbreaking events in this book, which is to be expected, but the overall message is one of hope. I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, especially those who don’t mind a narrative geared toward a younger audience.