Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
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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.
Review: Most of what I'm going to say about Between Shades of Gray has probably already been said but this book is amazing. It can be heart-breaking, tear inducing and sometimes just plain hopeful.
Lina was one of the most heart-breaking characters I've read about in a long time. She can be stubborn. The way she holds on to drawing was what made her most admirable to me. She was able to latch on to her drawings and her family and friends to try and survive in the harsh and painful cold of Siberia and up into the Arctic. Lina's voice was just as relatable as she was. Even though she's a girl from a very different time period and very different surroundings then readers she still struggles with the same things people do today.
There's many supporting characters in this one. The range from Lina's actually family to the ones that she sticks with till the very end in camps in Siberia. Every single one of them was memorable, no matter how much page time they got. I loved and hated some but you can't help but want the best for everyone.
Between Shades of Gray has fantastic historical elements as well. Usually I read historical fiction just for the fun of it and because I love it. But Between Shades of Gray was something different. There's barely anything about what happened to the tiny countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and many others in my current world history book. I've heard of Stalin and "The Great Purge" but I never thought of what actually happened after that. Between Shades of Gray makes collectives and work camps even more real then they are in many textbooks. This book does a great job focusing on what happened to the actual people and it makes what happened seem almost palpable.
I devoured Between Shades of Gray in a single afternoon and I held back tears often. Between Shades of Gray contains a powerful story, one that I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to ever forget.