Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pub Date: March 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
-- Goodreads
My Thoughts:
I was incredibly excited to read Between Shades of Gray, and it was so much better than I hoped it would be. The subject matter is so difficult and depressing, but the book was so much more. I'm not even sure how to describe how much I liked the book and what a wonderful writer Ruta Sepetys is.

The main character Lina really made the story for me. Seeing everything through her eyes; through her struggles made the horrible things that happened to her and family more real and heartbreaking. She continues to find strength in her fellow Lithuanians and in her artwork. Although she is forced into a horrible life and struggles to remain hopeful, she doesn't lose what makes her her. Lina is strong, but she does lose hope briefly and struggles to remain who she is, which makes her so real. You can't help but relate to her and feel her anger, fear, sadness, and her strength.

The writing is wonderful and mixes Lina's current struggles with flashbacks to her previous life before the Soviet occupation. This mixture helps create a richer story of what was happening in Lithuanian in the 40s, but also keeps the story from being too much.

Everyone needs to read this story, not only because knowing this terrible history will help us insure that it doesn't happen again, but because it is a beautifully written story about hope.


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