Friday, August 19, 2011

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
Summary and cover art from

My Review: Lina is only fifteen when the NKVD take her away from her Lithuanian home, along with her younger brother and her mother. Lina's father is no where to be seen as the family arrives at the train station. They are herded onto a cattle car headed for an unknown destination cramped full of other deportees and the situation continues to get bleaker. As the miles pass Lina is not only separated from her home but also from her dreams. She is forced into hours upon hours of hard labor day after day which is rewarded a mere 3 ounces of bread each day.

Lina recounts her harrowing tale in first person. She is a strong willed, courageous character with the many hopes and dreams of a fifteen year old girl. The story contains not only Lina's present but her memories as well, allowing the reader to become better acquainted with her. A wide array other memorable characters adorn these pages in various degrees of likableness giving the story a well-rounded feel. The relationships between Lina's family and the other deportees give the book depth.

This novel was obviously well researched and an appropriate amount of detail is given to each scene. The cold, inhumane conditions are deeply felt. The mental and physical abuse are present yet not overly explored, leaving the material appropriate for an adolescent audience. Lina's fatigue, hunger and fear emanate from the pages, but in the end it is the triumph of human spirit that will be remembered. My only complaint was that the book was not longer. There were some loose ends left behind and Lina was an incredibly hard character to say goodbye to.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Sum it up: Powerful and heartbreaking, Between Shades of Gray  acquaints readers with the events that took place during WWII in the Soviet Union.

1 comment:

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Holy cow...I just finished this. Need to read a comedy next.


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