Friday, December 12, 2014

Between Shades of Grey - 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 from back of the book and image from

My Review:  Please know that this is NOTHING like 50 Shades of Grey.  I've never read 50 Shades, and have no intention of doing so.  But, this book is totally worth the read.  Before reading this book, I had no idea the crimes committed by the Russians against the Lithuanians.  WWII is filled with horrifying stories of the human race hurting each other, and this is no exception.  Told from the perspective of a teenage girl, you get to see her lose her home, her life, her identity, her future as she knows it, and embark on what must have felt like the longest, most brutal journey of her life.  Death, starvation, sub-zero temperatures, back-breaking work, and no seeming end to the misery shape what Lina endures.  The mix of portrayals of between the other prisoners, guards, and children create a complex tapestry of human experiences during war times. 

My only complaint, which probably shouldn't be called that, is that the story seemed slow, long, drawn-out if you will.  But, this was probably purposeful.  That's how it felt to Lina.  And that's how I'm sure Sepetys meant for the reader to feel.  Because that's how it was for those enduring the time they spent in Russia.  Written in a more simplistic voice, any young reader could get through this book.  It's a fascinating perspective of another WWII experience.  I'm so grateful Sepetys took the time to research the information considering the gag-order that was placed upon those who lived it.

I highly recommend this book!

For the sensitive reader:  Some more mature themes mentioned, but nothing that would prevent me from handing it to a high school student or mature middle school student.

Rating: 4 stars

Sum it up:  Take WWII, jump into Russia, and see what was happening to an entire nation while people were distracted by the atrocities committed by the Germans.


TheScribblingSprite said...

Great review! I loved this one too. Very eye opening.

Meredith said...

I love this book! It was the book that actually got my butt in gear and start a book blog.

I still feel cold when I think about this story and the harsh conditions these people had to deal with

Kristian said...

I really enjoyed this book too. It was awkward reading it because people kept asking me 'Why are you reading 50 shades of grey?!'. I never knew about the crimes either and am glad I read a book that was well written yet historical.


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