Monday, October 3, 2011

Review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published by: Philomel Books
Pages: 344
Source: Library
Format: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★★

Summary from Goodreads: 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.

Wow.  I'm not sure if it's just this story or the fact that listening to it made it feel so real, but this story captivated me and touched me in a way I haven't felt in a long time. 

Lina's story was breathtaking, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.  This is a story of fighters and survival.  I don't have words to describe how powerful Lina's story was.  At first she was just a common girl placed in a horrible situation, but then she learned how to adapt to her surroundings, but also remembered her roots and thrived to survive her grueling circumstances. 

We often talk about how fierce and kick-butt we like our heroines, and for me Lina had all these qualities, but she wasn't fighting vampires or zombies, she was fighting prejudice, ignorance and hatred.  I cannot image how she must have felt, or how anyone must feel by being hated not for something you did, but for who your ancestors are.   

At first, I thought this story would be one of the Nazi and that aspect of the war, but instead I got an eye opening encounter of some of the horror that Stalin inflicted.  I never remember studying this in history, so it was new and completely mind blowing to hear this.  Their experiences from the filth and disease infested train car, to being starved and over worked, and finally surviving the arctic temperatures was something I won't soon forgot.   

I really don't have the words to do this story justice, but just trust me when I say this is a must read. 


  1. I've had this one on my bookshelf forever; I really need to make time to read it. Lina sounds like the bravest type of heroine. I admire her already.

  2. I've heard this book is utterly amazing, I really need to make time to read it! I love the books that have me emotionally involved and it seems like it will be nearly impossible not to get swept up in this one! Lovely review Lisa!

  3. oh wow, learned lots about the war in school last year, so very excited to read this book. Sounds heart breaking. Great review.

  4. I hope things turn out alright for the heroine. A lot of people never made it out of those camps, art or no. Although I must wonder - since beet is a frequently used as a colorant, did she use beet juice for paint?
    If you liked that book, you might was to check out "A Fine Balance," by Rohinton Mistry. It's all about struggle of regular people, as well.
    -Mac Campbell

  5. You definitely make me want to read this soon. I love it when characters are strong! Now I know that I have to make time for this one in my reading schedule.

    Great review!

  6. This book has been on my TBR list for a long time exactly for that reason-like THE HUNGER GAMES when it first emerged, this is a blast of fresh air to the literary world.

  7. I've wanted to pick this one up for a while. I like books that show real strength or bravery and a lot of the time that isn't of the "kickbutt" variety. Great review! :)

  8. I loved this book!I agree that it is so difficult to articulate how wonderful it truly is. It is one of my favorites.

  9. I loved this book. Like you, I listen to the audiobook version, and am so glad I did. It was done so well, a true reflection of the story.

  10. I agree that this was incredibly touching. I'd assumed it would be WWII as well. I know the idea of Stalin's camps but I'd never read anything about them. This was surprising. And incredibly powerful.


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