Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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.

My thoughts:
Between Shades of Gray is based on real events that took place during World War II, and tells the story of Lina and her family as they are taken from their home in Lithuania and sent to a work camp in Siberia. This is a part of WWII history that seems to be almost forgotten, as it's rarely mentioned in the history books, but what a story it is!

Lina is a very compelling character, and I loved reading the story from her point of view. She is optimistic even in the worst situations, and never gives up her hope that she'll one day get out of the work camps and back to her home. She has very strong opinions on what is right and wrong, yet as she lives through all this hardship she learns to see that not every action or person is good or bad, but that there's shades of gray as well. She is incredibly protective of her younger brother, and of everyone else she thinks she can help.

The long train ride and the work camps are so well described that it was as if I could smell the dirty people and the human waste, and even if I was reading outside in the sunny Colorado weather, I though I could feel the Siberian cold on my own body. It is rare for me to get this caught up in a setting, but it really helped me understand exactly how hard this must have been on everyone sent to the camps.

This novel is a beautifully told story about how important it is to never give up hope, and how people stick together in hard times. Definitely a novel I'll keep recommending to all my friends!

The cover:
The single sprout rising up through the snow, with barb wire around the edges, goes perfectly with this story.

My rating of this book:

Want a second opinion? Check out these reviews written by some of my book blogging friends:
Starting the Next Chapter
The Story Siren

Want to know more?
Add Between Shades of Gray to your Goodreads wishlist
Visit Ruta Sepetys' website

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published: March 22nd 2011
Pages (paperback): 344
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 0399254129 (ISBN13: 9780399254123)
Full disclosure: Checked out at my local library

This book can be purchased from a number of local retailers and on-line book stores such as Amazon or The Book Depository (I'm not an affiliate of either). The latter store does by the way have free shipping to about 100 countries.


  1. I remember seeing this on Diary of an eccentric and it does sound like a really good book

  2. Loved this book. I feel it displayed a time period in history that often gets ignored. I thought the writing was beautiful and the story was heartbreaking. I will certainly remember this one for a long time to come. Thank you for a great review.

  3. This book sounds heartbreaking, I get so emotionally drained when I read this kind of book.

    Great review, Nina :)

  4. Thanks for the link-up. I really enjoyed your review. :)

  5. I am so looking forward to reading this one. I keep hearing such good things about it.

    New follower here, recommended by Marla @ STNC!

    Nikki @ Books Most Wanted


Thank you for sharing your thoughts =)