Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review - Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 338
Genre: YA, Adult Fiction
Source: Library
Buy the book: Amazon

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)

Kim’s take – Wow. This was a completely unforgettable novel.  I fell in love with all of the characters and my heart broke for them while reading of the horrible situations they were placed in.

Lina is a talented artist in Lithuania with a bright future ahead of her when her family is taken from their home by the Soviets. The location of her father, who has already been taken, is unknown to the family. Lina, her mother, and little brother are boarded on trains with no idea where they are going or what will happen to them. The conditions on the train are deplorable and are only the beginning of the inhumane conditions they will soon be trying to survive. It becomes a testament to a person’s will to live and situations they will suffer in order to stay alive and try to help others who are in the same situation.

The family is taken to work camps where they are treated as slaves whose lives are worth less than nothing. It was heart-breaking to read of the horrible living conditions, starvation, and untreated illnesses that these people suffered. And to know that Lina and her family always held on to hope made it that much worse since I knew what happened to so may in these concentration camps. But what happens at the camp is nothing compared to what happens to the family when they are taken across the Arctic Circle to Siberia.

The prisoners have no housing and are instructed to build their own with whatever they are able to find. They are supplied with no way to heat their shabbily built shelters and have no winter clothing. These skeletal characters are with very little food, and trying to survive freezing temperatures and blizzard conditions. I was surprised by some of the methods these people were able to keep alive.

Sepetys is an excellent author who does such a wonderful job of making the characters very relatable. I spent the entire book pulling for just about everyone, though there were a couple of characters who were less than pleasant. The author even managed to slip in a little bit of a love story despite the tragic events.
I would very highly recommend this book to everyone!

Kim’s Rating – 


  1. I loved this book so ridiculously much. I so agree that it was heartbreaking and emotional and all of those things though. But I still thought it was amazing!

  2. I so want to read this book even though I think it's going to break my heart.

    Thanks for your awesome review of it. *huggleth*

  3. With all the heartbreak, I think I'd hold on to that little bit of 'love story' part as much as possible.

    I've got to make time to read this one soon.

  4. I loooooved this book so much and wanted everyone else to read it too, I'm glad you loved it. =D Great review!

  5. Everyone raves about this book but I don't know if I could read something so sad.

  6. Wow, I've heard so much about this book, and I cannot wait to read it. That's so sad what they have to go through... :( That's great that all the characters are very easy to relate to though. Great review!

  7. I have this book sitting on my shelf! I bought it right after it came out, but I still haven't read it! Great review Kim!

  8. I am so glad you loved Between Shades of Gray!

    Just like you, I was pulling for so many of the characters, despite the inevitable heartbreak.

  9. This has always sounded like such a beautiful, wonderful novel! I really do hope to find the time to read it soon. Great review!

  10. Amazing review! I SO want to read this book! It sounds completely amazing! I'll have to make finding a copy of this book more of a priority!