The Sun Is Also a Star 
Nicola Yoon, 2016
Random House
384 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780553496680

Finalist, 2016 National Book Award


I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true.

I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer.

But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe
Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Jamaica; Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Education—M.F.A., Emerson College
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

Nicola Yoon is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult books Everything, Everything (2015) and The Sun Is Also a Star (2016). She grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (on Long Island).

Yoon's path to writing was a roundabout one. As a child, she loved to write, starting when she was 8 or 9, yet by high school, she'd become a math nerd, and in college she majored in electrical engineering. It wasn't until her senior college year, when she took a creative writing class, that she rediscovered her love of writing.

Nonetheless, Yoon went on to become a financial data programmer for investment firms. She worked in that field for several years and then decided to enroll in a creative writing program at Emerson College, where she earned an M.F.A. Still, she worked for another 20-some years—while writing on the side—before getting her first book deal.

That first book was Everything, Everything—a bestseller, a "best book of the year" on many lists, and a 2017 motion picture. Yoon says her inspiration came with the birth of her daughter after which she worried obsessively about her child's safety. Anything, she said, would make her frantic. Then she began to imagine a child whose life truly was threatened by the world, for ever, simply by being in it. How would an overly protective mother respond to those threats, and what shape would the mother-daughter relationship take?

That germ of an idea grew into Everything Everything, which was released in 2015. Yoon's husband, by the way, provided the artwork for the book. Her debut was followed by The Sun Is Also a Star in 2016, which has also been widely praised.

Yoon lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family. She’s also a hopeless romantic who firmly believes that you can fall in love in an instant and that it can last forever. (Adapted from the publisher and various online sources.)

Book Reviews
The Sun Is Also a Star is an enormous undertaking: an eclectic dictionary mashed up with Romeo and Juliet and the '90s rom-com One Fine Day. But Yoon grounds everything in Daniel and Natasha's instant, vital connection…and the conundrum that follows when they realize the universe has brought them together only to part them. It's a deep dive into love and chance and self-determination—and the many ways humans affect one another, often without even knowing it.
Jen Doll - New York Times Book Review

(Starred review.) [I]mpressively multilayered.... With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of every character she introduces, Yoon weaves an intricate web of threads connecting strangers.... A moving and suspenseful portrayal of a fleeting relationship. (12 & up).
Publishers Weekly

[Natasha and Daniel] tell their stories in alternating chapters.... Both relatable and profound, the bittersweet ending conveys a sense of hopefulness that will resonate with teens. (Gr 8 & Up) —Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) Lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate...and the universal beating of the human heart.

(Starred review.) Yoon’s lush prose chronicles an authentic romance that’s also a meditation on family, immigration, and fate.... [T]this profound exploration of life and love tempers harsh realities with the beauty of hope in a way that is both deeply moving and satisfying (14 & up).
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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A Torch Against the Night  (Embers in the Ashes, #2)
Sabaa Tahir, 2016
Penguin Books
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781101998878

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.
Laia is determined to break int o Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars' future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side...even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom.
But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both. (From the publisher.)

This is the second book in the series. The first book is An Ember in the Ashes (2015).

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1981-82
Raised—London, England (UK)
Raised—Mojave Desert, California, USA
Education—B.A., University of California-Los Angeles
Currently—lives in Bay Area of San Francisco, California

Sabaa Tahir was born in London, England, but raised in a small outpost in California's Mojave Desert. She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants who own a small 18-room motel at a U.S. military base. Growing up, Tahir was an outcast among her peers—the butt of bullying and taunts that she and her family should "go back to where they came from." That childhood experience of exclusion had a profound affect on Tahir's worldview.

Tahir left the desert at 17 to attend the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and after graduation took a job as a copy editor at the Washington Post. It was while working at the Post that she came across a news item that inspired her to write. A group of Pakistani women in the Indian-occupied region of Kashmir had lost all the men in their families. Husbands, sons, and fathers—all were taken away by the occupying forces; they disappeared without a clue as to where they were being held or what was happening to them.

That's the world we live in, Tahir realized. There was nothing she could do. Yet in her imagination, she could do something: she could create a world in which the oppressed could fight back. Out of that kernel, and after years writing and rewriting, came her first book, An Ember in the Ashes. The book is the first in a planned series and is already optioned for film. The second book, released in 2016, is A Torch Against the Night.

During the first book's creation, Tahir left the Washington Post, moved back to California with her husband, gave birth to two children, and continued writing. The family now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Adapted from Entertainment Weekly and other sources. Retrieved 9/6/2016.)

Book Reviews
The stakes here are high and the plot runs like a well-oiled machine, ratcheting up the tension with every chapter.
A Torch Against the Night is an unabashed page-turner that scarcely ever pauses for breath.
Christian Science Monitor

Fast-paced, exciting and full of adrenaline, A Torch Against The Night is everything fans of Tahir’s debut could possibly anticipate in a sequel.
Bucks County Courier Times

Delivers in every way.... The stakes have never been higher, and the tension is acutely felt as Elias and Laia run for their lives.
USA Today - Happy Ever After blog

(Starred review.) Tahir’s deft, polished debut alternates between two very different perspectives on the same brutal world, deepening both in the contrast. In a tale brimming with political intrigue and haunted by supernatural forces, the true tension comes from watching Elias and Laia struggle to decide where their loyalties lie.
Publishers Weekly

Told in the alternating voices of Elias, Laia, and Helene, this book is even darker and grimmer than the first, which readers will need to be familiar with in order to follow the twists and turns of the plot. Strong and compelling characters...and a number of action-packed sequences help keep things moving (Grade 9 & up). —Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) Tahir proves to be a master of suspense and a canny practitioner of the cliffhanger, riveting readers’ attention throughout.…[An] action-packed, breathlessly paced story.

Tahir's follow-up to An Ember in the Ashes (2015) picks up right where Volume 1 left off, ratcheting up the tension (military and sexual) as well as the magic, the violence, and the stakes.... An excellent continuation of a series seemingly designed for readers of the political, bloody fantasy style du jour, set apart by an uncommon world (14 & up).
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for A Torch Against the Night...then take off on your own:

1. In what ways have Laia and Eilas changed from An Ember in the Ashes?

2. What about Helene—is there a way in which this second book could be considered her story?

3. What does Tahir reveal about the bloodthirsty emperor, Marcus? What hidden depths to his character do we see in this book, which were not revealed in the first?

4. A new villain is added to the series: the Warden of Kauf prison. What do you make of him?

5. Two plot twists in this story: were you surprised?

6. Care to talk about the sexual tension between Elias and Laia?

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie (Illus., Ellen Forney), 2007
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
240 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780316013680

Winner, 2007 National Book Award

The story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—October 7, 1966
Raised—Spokane, Washington, Indian Reservation
Education—B.A., Washington State University
Awards—National Book Award; PEN/Faulkner Award
Currently—lives in Seattle, Washington

Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. is an American poet, writer, and filmmaker. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

Alexie was born  in 1966 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Washington, and spent his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation, located west of Spokane. His father, Sherman Joseph Alexie, was a member of the Coeur d'Alene tribe (though a grandfather was of Russian descent). Alexie's mother, Lillian Agnes Cox, was of Colville, Choctaw, Spokane and European American ancestry.

Alexie was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when there is an abnormally large amount of cerebral fluid in the cranial cavity. He underwent brain surgery when he was only six months old and was not expected to survive or, if he did, would be at high risk of mental disabilities. Alexie's surgery was successful and he survived with no mental damage but had other effects.

His father was an alcoholic who often left the house for days at a time. To support her six children, Alexie's mother Lillian sewed quilts and worked as a clerk at the Wellpinit Trading Post.

Alexie has described his life at the reservation school as challenging because he was constantly teased by other kids. He was nicknamed "The Globe" because his head was larger than usual due to the hydrocephalus. Until the age of seven, Alexie suffered from seizures and bedwetting and had to take strong drugs to control them. Because of his health problems, he was excluded from many of the activities that are rites of passage for young Indian males. However, he excelled academically, reading everything available, including auto repair manuals.

In order to better his education, Alexie decided to leave the reservation and attend high school in Reardan, Washington, 22 miles off the reservation. The only Native American student, he excelled at his studies, became a star player on the basketball team, and was elected class president. He was also a member of the debate team.

His success in high school won him a scholarship in 1985 to Gonzaga University, a Roman Catholic university in Spokane. Originally enrolling in the pre-med program, he found he was squeamish during dissection in his anatomy classes. He switched to law but found that unsuitable, as well. Feeling pressure to succeed and beset with anxieity, he began drinking.

In 1987 Alexie dropped out of Gonzaga and enrolled at Washington State University. He was at a low point in his life when he enrolled in a creative writing course taught by Alex Kuo, a respected poet of Chinese-American background. Kuo served as a mentor to Alexie and gave him Songs of This Earth on Turtle's Back, an anthology by Joseph Bruchac. It was a book, Alexie later said, that changed his life—teaching him "how to connect to non-Native literature in a new way." He remained similarly inspired, however, by Native American poets.

With his new appreciation of poetry, Alexie started work on his first collection, The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Viviane Poems, published in 1992. With that success, Alexie stopped drinking and quit school just three credits short of a degree. Three years later, however, in 1995 he finally attained his bachelor's from Washington State University.

Short stories
Some of Alexie's best-known works are The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), a collection of short stories, and Smoke Signals (1998), a film based on that collection, for which he also wrote the screenplay.

His stories have been included in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories 2004, edited by Lorrie Moore; and Pushcart Prize XXIX of the Small Presses. Additionally, a number of his pieces have been published in various literary magazines and journals, as well as online publications.

His 2009 collection of short stories and poems, War Dances, won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Alexie's first novel, Reservation Blues (1995), revisits some of the characters from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor Joseph, and Junior Polatkin, who have grown up together on the Spokane Indian reservation, were teenagers in the short story collection. In Reservation Blues they are now adult men in their thirties. The novel received one of the fifteen 1996 American Book Awards.

Indian Killer (1996) is a murder mystery set among Native American adults in contemporary Seattle, where the characters struggle with urban life, mental health, and the knowledge there is a serial killer on the loose.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age story that began as a memoir of Alexie's life and family on the Spokane Indian reservation. The novel focuses on a fourteen-year-old Indian named Arnold Spirit and won the 2007 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature. It also won the Odyssey Award as best 2008 audiobook for young people (read by the author himself).

In 1998 Alexie broke barriers by creating the first all-Indian movie, Smoke Signals. Alexie based the screenplay on his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and characters and events from a number of Alexie's works make appearances in the film.

The Business of Fancydancing, written and directed by Alexie in 2002, explores themes of Indian identity, cultural involvement vs. blood quantum, living on the reservation or off it, and other issues around what makes someone a "real Indian." The title refers to the protagonist's choice to leave the reservation and make his living performing for predominantly white audiences. Much of the dialogue was improvised, based on real events in the actors' lives.

Style and themes
Alexie's poetry, short stories and novels explore themes of despair, poverty, violence, and alcoholism in the lives of Native American people living on and off the reservation. Although exploring grim subjects, the works are leavened by wit and humor.

According to Sarah A. Quirk from the Dictionary of Library Biography, Alexie asks three questions across all of his works:

What does it mean to live as an Indian in this time?
What does it mean to be an Indian man?
What does it mean to live on an Indian reservation

The protagonists in most of his literary works exhibit a constant struggle with themselves and their own sense of powerlessness in white American society.

Alexie’s writings "blends elements of popular culture, Indian spirituality, and the drudgery of poverty-ridden reservation life to create his characters and the world they inhabit," according to Quirk. His work is laced with often startling humor.

In 2005, Alexie became a founding board member of Longhouse Media, a non-profit organization that teaches filmmaking skills to Native American youth. It holds to the belief that media can be used for both cultural expression and social change.

Alexie is married to Diane Tomhave, who is of Hidatsa, Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi heritage. They live in Seattle with their two sons. (Adapted from Wikipoedia. Retrieved 1/31/2016.)

Book Reviews
This is a gem of a book....may be [Sherman Alexie's] best work yet.
New York Times

Sure to resonate and lift spirits of all ages for years to come.
USA Today

Fierce observations and sharp sense of humor...hilarious language.

[Alexie] has created an endearing teen protagonist in his own likeness and placed him in the here and now.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Exceptionally good....Arnold is a wonderful character.
Miami Herald

(Starred review.) Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela’s Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful (Ages 14-up).
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit.... The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner (Grade 7–10). —Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library
School Library Journal

Alexie's humor and prose are easygoing and well suited to his young audience, and he doesn't pull many punches as he levels his eye at stereotypes both warranted and inapt. A few of the plotlines fade to gray by the end, but this ultimately affirms the incredible power of best friends to hurt and heal in equal measure. —Ian Chipman

(Starred review.) [S]harp wit with unapologetic emotion.... The reservation’s poverty and desolate alcoholism offer early mortality and broken dreams, but Junior’s knowledge that he must leave is rooted in love and respect for his family and the Spokane tribe.... [His] fluid narration deftly mingles raw feeling with funny, sardonic insight.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

1. How would you describe Arnold—both at the beginning of the book and at the end? In what ways does he change? What does he come to realize about being an Indian man?

2. What do you think about Arnold's comment, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats”? Is his cartooning an escape that distracts him from learning how to face difficulties and disappointments in life? Or is it a necessary life saver? How would you console—or counsel—Arnold?

3. Do Ellen Forney's illustrations enhance the book for you? Did you find them enlightening, funny, endearing, or distracting?

4. Talk about life on the reservation. Consider Arnold's dental care (10 teeth pulled in a single day) and finding his mother's name in his science book. Contrast conditions at the white school off the reservation.

4. What do you think about Mr. P's remark: "The only thing you kids are being taught is how to give up"? Why does he say this to Arnold?

5. What is it about Arnold that eventually earns him the respect of the white kids in Reardon? Is their respect genuine?

6. Why do members of the tribe, even his best friend, feel Arnold is a traitor? Has he betrayed his community? What—or who—is Arnold's community?

7. Talk about Sherman Alexie's use of humor in this book. Why might he have employed it, especially in the face of grinding poverty and the tragedies that take place on the reservation?

8. What have you learned about life on a reservation after having read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian? We you surprised by the conditions on the reservation? Or did the book confirm what you'd known (or suspected) before?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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Salt to the Sea 
Ruta Sepetys, 2016
Penguin Young Readers
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780399160301

An epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

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.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson's Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history.

As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—November 19, 1967
Where—Detroit, Michigan, USA
Education—B.S., Hillsdale College
Currently—lives in Nashville, Tennessee

Ruta Sepetys (Roota Suh-pettys) is the Lithuanian-American author of three novels: Salt to the Sea (2016), a story of refugees on-board the real-life Wilhelm Gustloff; Out of the Easy (2013), set in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Between Shades of Gray (2011), set during the Soviet takeover of Lithuania.

Sepetys was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, who escaped from Stalin's Russia. Her father ended up spending nine years in refugee camps before making his way to the U.S.

Ruta's third novel, Salt to the Sea, has personal relevance to her family. Her father's cousin also fled Latvia and landed in East Prussia. From there, like characters in the novel, she hoped to escape by sea. Scheduled to sail on the Wilhelm Gustloff, fate intervened—she was transferred at the last minute to a different ship, and her life was spared. Decades later later, the cousin and her husband encouraged Ruta to tell the story of the thousands of refugees aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Ruta Sepetys holds a B.S. in International Finance from Hillsdale College. While in school Sepetys also studied at the Centre d'etudes Europeennes in Toulon, France and at the ICN in Nancy, France.

Following graduation Sepetys moved to Los Angeles. In 1994 she launched Sepetys Entertainment Group, Inc., an entertainment management firm representing Grammy-award-winning guitarist Steve Vai, Orange County modern rock band Lit, and Emmy-nominated film composer Niels Bye Nielsen. In 2002 Sepetys was featured in Rolling Stone magazine’s "Women in Rock" special issue as a woman driven to make a difference.

Sepetys is on the Board of Advisors for the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University and is also a director of the Make a Noise Foundation, a national non-profit that raises money for music education. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 3/14/2016.)

Book Reviews
The pacing is swift as a thriller…the book's drama comes not simply from the battlefield action—the bombings, the armies on the move—but from the constant wounding fire of lies and revelations, self-deceptions and desperate ententes…It would be near blasphemous to use suffering on this scale as the backdrop to provide the beats of suspense and near escape if it weren't for Sepetys's clear commitment to preserving the memory of the forgotten, the drowned…once again, Ruta Sepetys acts as champion of the interstitial people so often ignored—whole populations lost in the cracks of history.
M.T. Anderson - New York Times Book Review

(Starred review.) [A] knockout historical novel...that offers insight into the ugly realities of WWII and culminates with a forgotten event, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.... Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty (Ages 12 & up)
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Told alternately from the perspective of each of the main characters, the novel also highlights the struggle and sacrifices that ordinary people—children—were forced to make. At once beautiful and heart-wrenching —Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L.
Library Journal

(Starred review.) —[L]yrical prose, eye for detail, and...skillfully paced revelations.... Observations of war and loss, human cruelty, and hatred are unflinching.... [T]his little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping (Gr. 8 & up). —Kiera Parrott
School Library Journal

(Starred review.) This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered, and in turn, it tries to remember the thousands of real people its fictional characters represent. What it asks of us is that their memories, and their stories, not be abandoned to the sea.

This book includes all the reasons why teens read: for knowledge, for romance, for amazing and irritating characters. This novel will break readers’ hearts and then put them back together a little more whole (Ages 12 to Adult). —Elizabeth Mills

Sepetys combines research...with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff.... The inevitability of the ending...doesn't change its poignancy.... Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful (Ages 12-16).
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're made available. In the meantime, use these LitLovers talking points to kick off a discussion for Salt to the Sea...then take off on your own:

1. Ruta Sepetys tells her story through four different characters. How do the four differ from one another and, more importantly, what perspectives do they bring to the story? Why might the author have chosen four points of view as opposed to a single narrative?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Clearly, the least sympathetic character is Alfred—he borders on cartoonish in his villainy. What is his role in the novel—what does he reveal about Germany's role in the last stages of the war, and how does he help set up events on-board the ship?

3. Talk about how the relationships unfold among Joana, Emilia, and Florian.

4. Describe the conditions on the Wilhelm Gustloff. What was the most difficult hardship for you to read about?

5. Even knowing the outcome of the story (it is a real life historical event), did you find yourself turning the pages quickly? If so, how does Sepetys create suspense even when the outcome is known?

6. How might you describe this story, despite its tragedy, as hopeful?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online of off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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The Love That Split the World 
Emily Henry, 2016
Penguin Young Readers
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781595148506

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.”

They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.”

The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Emily Henry is full-time writer, proofreader, and donut connoisseur. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies, and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
The YA world is buzzing about The Love That Split the World, a high school love story from debut author Emily Henry. It’s got all the ingredients of a riveting read, like time travel and a mythology twist. The book follows Natalie Clearly, eager to leave her Kentucky high school for the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, but the night before graduation, as the school gathers at the football stadium, the stadium lights flash and Natalie sees a vision of a handsome stranger. They flash again and he’s gone — but her life is changed forever.
Entertainment Weekly

[C]aptivates, both as a romance and as an imaginative rethinking of time and space. The relationship between Beau and Natalie sizzles while also reflecting the innocence of first love, and the unfolding mystery of their changing realities is enough to keep readers turning pages…. [A] story with depth, originality, and complexity.
Publishers Weekly

A well-written piece of magic realism about the price we pay for daring to love, and the price we pay if we don’t.

Moments of introspection are balanced by fully realized secondary characters and occasional moments of hilarity. The story begins slowly but picks up speed and intensity as the clock runs out, ending in a conclusion of intricate twists.... While the love is so at-first-sight as to be clichéd and the cultural issues problematic, this debut is otherwise sensitive, lyrical, and deftly plotted.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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