Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher:  Philomel Books
Publication Date: March 22nd 2011
ISBN: 0399254129
Genre:  Young Adult, historical fiction
Author/Book website:   &
Discussion Guides:

Summary:  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:  I really, really love this book!  However, writing a review is so difficult because of the content involved.  It evoked such emotion.  It is so heart breaking!  Prior to reading this book, I was totally unaware of the atrocities that took place at the hands of Stalin and the Soviets on the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) that occurred at the same time of that of Hitler and the Holocaust.  The true sadness of this event, is that it has been shrouded in secrecy.  Even after individuals returned home, they did not speak of what happened to them for fear that they would be again deported and returned to a similar situation.

While I was reading Between Shades of Gray, I felt like I was right there with Lina and the others she was with.  Although I could never come close to feeling the actual suffering of those that were involved, Ruta Sepetys' writing allowed me to feel as close to the emotion as I could without actually being there.  This novel is so well written that it is hard to believe that it is a fictional account of what really happened.

Being so immersed in such sadness throughout the novel, it was very resourceful of the author to include the flashbacks to a better time in the characters' lives.  Having that glimpse of hope, and just positive events allowed for a breathe of fresh air that was not only needed by us as readers, but for the characters to get through tha moment in their ordeal.

I read this novel over a couple of days, needing to take breaks for the emotional impact it has - needing time to process what was happening as I was reading.  I found myself relating to the characters, and commending the bravery of Lina and the others involved.  The strength they had to have in order to survive spoke to the character of the individuals.  In order to write such a wonderful novel, the author had to put much research into it.  It is obvious that she had some personal connection.  I think she explains it well in this book trailer.

I had selected this novel randomly this month from my Goodreads to-read list.  I don't remember when I had added it or what had drawn me to it, but I am so very glad that I picked it up and read it this month.  I find it interesting that right now, that our 6th grade students are starting their Holocaust unit and  reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry right now too.  Talk about timing!!!

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