Release Date: March 22, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
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.
Summary taken from Goodreads.
It's 1941, Hitler and Stalin have signed a pact of non-aggression therefore giving the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to Stalin and the Soviet Union. After annexing the three countries to the Soviet Union. Stalin drafted lists of people whom he felt were anti-Soviet. These lists were composed of educated and knowledgeable people such as professors, doctors, librarians etc. Once the lists were made, these people were brutally taken away from their home, separated into two groups. One of able-bodied men and the other of women, children and elderly. They were packed into cattle cars and the men were taken to prisons while the others were taken to Siberia to work in labour camps.
The story begins with us being introduced to our fifteen year old protagonist, Lina Vilkas. She is an aspiring artist from Lithuania with a bright future ahead of her. Until one night her father doesn't come home and one knock on the door turns her whole life upside down. She, her mother and her little brother Jonas are taken from their nice home in Kaunas, Lithuania and packed onto cattle car labelled Thieves and Prostitutes. From there starts their journey all the way to the North Pole. Along the way Lina and her family meet other deportees and create a community within themselves.
Between Shades of Gray is an amazing and unforgettable novel. Its every page was full of pain, suffering yet there was always that shade of love, shining though. It is a tale of survival, courage and belief in what is right. During a time where all else seems to be lost, the characters in this book continue to strive to survive and show goodness in spite of their terrible situations and conditions.
I truly loved all of characters in this novel. They were so well developed and realistic. Their circumstances were all so carefully and well discribed in the book that you can't help but feel like you know these people.
I really enjoyed reading from Lina's point of view. She was a very strong and goodhearted character. Her love for her family, her country and her countrymen is incredible. Despite all the problems she faces, her will to survive is truly inspirational and I think that through her drawings she inspired people to live.
Lina's love interest in this novel was Andrius Arvydas a son of a military official who is deported along with Lina and her family in the same cattle car. Andrius was an amazing and courageous character. His and his mothers situation touched me deeply and I truly sympathized with him.
There's also Lina's mother Elena and her little brother Jonas. I felt like Elena was not just a wonderful mother but an amazing woman in general. She believed in the good in people and put others well-being before her own. As for Jonas, I thought that he was a sweet young boy who was forced to grow up in the face of such terrors. I teared up every time Jonas stole a potato or something to help feed his mother and sister. A ten year old boy should not have to word to gain his food ration yet Jonas did so and never complain about it.
Lastly, there is Nikolai Kretzsky a young Soviet officer. I really liked reading about Nikolai he I thought was a very special character and I'm not going to say anything else.
Before reading this I had no idea of the horrors the people of the Batlics were subjected to. We all know of Hitler and his regime but never of the deportation of the Baltic people and the cruelties they faced. So in this book Ruta Sepetys brings to light a never before told tale. Also, what I think makes this book even more special is the fact that Ruta Sepetys' grandparents were survivors of the deportations. They actually immigrated to America in order to escape from the deportations.
In conclusion, Between Shades of gray is a magnificent book that deserves to be read by everybody. I had no problems with this book. It had a great balance of everything important needed to make such a wonderful and thought provoking book. Truly magnificent and a must read!