Why I Loved It: This book was pretty awesome. It really was. And the author? Yea she is pretty incredible. You can just feel the passion she has for this issue as you read the book. Listening to her talk about the book made me need to read the book. And once you read it, you find the writing is stunning. And the story is beautiful and enough to move you to tears.
I have read many books dealing with the Holocaust and World War II. They all revolved around Germany's conquests and the suffering of the Jews. I had never quite heard about the Lithuanians that suffered under such cruel conditions. I seriously hate that this is not a story more shared with students. It was an atrocity that was overshadowed by the darkness of Hitler.
In this story, Lina is this bright and artistic girl. She has been raised to think for herself, which has become very dangerous in the society around her. One night her father did not come home, and the NKVD came in and took Lina, her mother, and her little brother away. Thousands of others were taken from their home, put on trains, and sold off as laborers. They lived under horrible conditions. Lina and her family, with a lot of work, managed to stay together as they traveled from Lithuania. As innocent people, they are treated as criminals, moved from place to place with no clear explanation.
The story follows Lina throughout the terrors that surround her as her circumstances affect her and her art. Thankfully, in the midst of the horrors, Ms. Sepeptys managed to give her readers glimpses of hope throughout the frozen terrain. It is a truly fantastic example of fine storytelling.
Finally, I must mention the research. She went to Lithuania twice. She talked to survivors. And she went through a simulation of the prison Lithuanians would have went through. It was an incredibly intense process. It is incredibly commendable.
Who Should Read It: I think this a story that everyone should read. It is some fabulous historical fiction.
Oh my, Between Shades of Gray is an absolutely stunning book. It left me so utterly drained. It’s not an easy book to read, but one that’s certainly worthwhile.
Lina’s story broke my heart. She went through so much and Between Shades of Gray kept piling it on. One thing after another. And she was so brave and tried so hard to stick to her convictions, no matter what. It’s hard for me to even imagine, but I’m not sure that I could have done the same thing in her place. And her poor brother! To be forced to grow up like that. And don’t even get me started on her parents. It just hurt so much. But it was so powerful.
At first, the writing style of Between Shades of Gray grated on me. It was very brief, wasn’t overly descriptive. The sentences were very short and to the point. But as the book moved on, I started to think less about how the sentences were constructed and more about what they were saying. And the words were very powerful.
Whenever we learned about this time period in history class, we’d always sort of gloss over Stalin and focus on Hitler, which really goes to prove the overall point of the book. It wasn’t a book meant to make you cry and then be set aside. Lina herself may have not been real, but her story is the true story of thousands of people.
I highly recommend Between Shades of Gray. It’s such a powerful and emotional book, and even if you hate books that make you cry, Between Shades of Gray is a very, very worthwhile read.
Review originally posted on my blog http://hobbitsies.net/2011/03/between-shades-of-gray-by-ruta-sepetys/
When you read books set in the 1940-50's, they are mostly about Hitler in Germany. This one is not. It's about Lithuania, and how it was just as horrible as Germany then.
Between Shades of Gray is about a girl called Lina. Before one day changed her life, she was like any other Lithuanian around. Then. In 1941, one night, Soviets barged in, claiming that they were criminals. Herself and her family, her mother and her brother, were taken and thrown onto a train with many other people, and then is forced to work in a labour camp. This book is about her time in the labour camp, what she suffered there and how far she went to survive. It is so touching and heartbreaking.
I felt heartbroken all through this book, and cried a total of three times. The first time was when Lina was describing herself and those around her after a couple of months at the labour camp. The second time was when (SPOILER ALERT) Lina's mother died (END SPOILER) and the third was at the very end, when I was reading the letter.
I felt angry a lot of times during this book. I felt angry all the times those guards looked the other way as people were starving right in front of them, and also when I found out that the Americans knew about this.
I was so sad at the end. I was like "WHAT?! THAT'S WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO END?" Of course, with the end letter I knew she was all right in the end, but there was nothing on how she finally managed to escape. I am sad now. :(
This is an amazing book. All should read this, but be sure to be supplied with a few tissues if you're one of those people who cry easy.
Fills a Gap in YA Historical Fiction...And Does So WELL
I was a history major at Hanover College, where I took a course on the Soviet Union and wrote my I.S. on some of Solzhenitsyn's works. The World War II time period is among my favorite historical eras, so I was very excited to discover what Between Shades of Gray was about, as I had no idea when I picked it up.
This is a book that has been a long time coming. The atrocities of Nazi Germany are well known, mostly because they are so well-covered in popular culture. I have found that few people actually know much of anything about what Stalin wrought in his own country and the neighboring ones gobble up to be a part of the USSR. Sepetys' may be the first to cover this topic for a teenage audience. Hopefully more will follow.
The story certainly calls to mind the Holocaust stories that preceded it, but Sepetys does a good job of pointing out the differences between the enslavement/incarceration in Germany and in the Soviet Union. Between Shades of Gray is not an uplifting book, although it is intended to inspire its reader to consider the nature of good and evil. The epilogue, which I am of two minds about, clearly states the author's mission for the book, which is a good one, but is perhaps a bit too forceful when stated directly.
My only concern is whether Between Shades of Gray is dark enough. I read Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in its entirety, so I have a decent understanding of the Soviet prisons. However, Lina is not in one of the prisons and I know less about the camps like she lives in. Lina's family seems overall to be spectacularly lucky. One illustration of this: Lina, in a very stupid move, draws pictures of pretty much everything that happens to her family and hides them, and not very cleverly. Somehow, though, she does not get caught. I kept expecting her to, as so many people went down for such things in the Soviet Union.
I do not intend this as a definitive criticism, solely as a question to consider, and I would be interested in hearing the opinions of others. My only real basis for comparison is Solzhenitsyn, who was writing for adults and to show the Soviet system at its worst. Whether it is a bit lighter than reality or not, Sepetys has written a wonderful and crucial book for teens.
Look for Between Shades of Gray in stores this March! This is one you shouldn't miss.
a great and touching story........... a must read for everyone
i'm not really into fiction and i had to read this cuz i was one of the people who had to read the books nominated for Wirral Paper Back of the Year (in the Uk) and this was nominated- i was reluctant to pick it up and i just said oh well.
i started reading it and i coundn't put it down. it was so sad and emotional that i nearly cried.
i loved it and it really is a great book