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.
If this book doesn't become banned, I'll be sorely disappointed in the self-appointed safety-bubble police. This is a perfect book to burst that bubble and I'm proud to have read it. This book deserves to be on the shelf of every school in the world. It is an important story that is largely unknown.
I will not give anything away in this story as it is important to follow Lina in her heroic and harrowing tale. Her fight for life, just living and breathing is heroic within the conditions that presented itself. The story is often paralleled by her memories of a better time which also contrast to the horror the family, Lina, Jona her brother, and her mother Elena, are experiencing. The horror is made much darker by that comparison. It also provided Lina something else to concentrate on other than hunger and toil. The darkness wasn't surprising to me as I also realized what I was getting into by the first chapter.
"Twenty minutes," the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.
There is one thing I will warn you. You will need some tissues by the end of this book. *shakes fist* Oh, I hate crying and I hate it even more so when I'm trying to keep my sinuses from closing up on me and looking like I was punched in the face. So, don't say I didn't warn you when you start blubbering like a baby. At least you weren't the only one to do that. *sniff*
I recommend this book to everyone. It is YA, but written simply and well. Younger YA audiences could easily read this, but for concerned parents know there is violence and rape by coercion. It is a book describing atrocities that occurred, but isn't any worse than is presented in the media today. I would suggest to those with young kids to read it first and then decide. It is a book I think parents should read anyway.
If you still aren't convinced to read the book, do watch the author talk about her book. It is about 10 minutes, but totally worth the time.
Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.
Official website for the book
I was given this ARC by the publisher and no compensation for my review was given.