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Between Shades of Gray ~ Ruta Sepetys

December 20, 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction/YA
352 pages
Publuisher: Philomel
ISBN: 9780399254123
Source: Publisher via Library Thing

It’s 1941 and Lina is worried. She’s worried that her application for a prestigious art program might come back rejected. She worries about the boy she has her heart set on. The boy who doesn’t know her name.

One summer night, as thoughts of portraits and first loves float through the minds of Lithuanian teenaged minds, things come crashing down. Things like front doors, kicked in by steel toed boots. Things like heirloom crystal, thrown from shelves. Things like hopes and dreams, falling to ruins around doctors, teachers and lawyers. Piled into a stock car with other “criminals” and “fascist swine”, Lina finds that she is, along with her mother and younger brother, in for another worry altogether.

Due to the family’s intellectually elite standing in the city, they are shipped to Siberia, sans their Papa who has been shipped to an even harsher camp, elsewhere, out of reach.

Lina’s art talent and training come in handy, though, when her journey rambles through the deepest pits of hell. She is able to document the terrors that will consume her for twelve years as a deportee. She draws and writes and documents with the hope that someday, someone will find her story and share it with the world, honoring the lives lost and passing on the love that helped those who did survive endure.

Lina’s story is very different than so many of the World War II stories that have gone before it. For one thing, it’s from the “other” side. We often hear about Hitler’s mess but we don’t hear about the Siberian isolation that happened at the same time under our then allies, on the Eastern side. Coming from both (I’m half German, half Eastern European patchwork), I’ve always been pretty well-read in this department but have mostly stuck to the Jewish end of things for both atrocities. The interesting part, for me, about Between Shades of Gray, was the blonde hair, blue eyed, almost New England Preppy lifestyle that Lina and her neighbors were living prior to the night they were taken.  Obviously, the atrocities are nothing new, but the simple power shift in Hitler versus Stalin was an interesting commentary on how the East saw The War in a different light than the West.

As far as my love for the individual characters, well, that’s just another thing, altogether. I have not really found many love stories that have held my interest but, here, I think I have finally succumbed to something of the sort. Not only in romance but in the deepest definition of love for friends, family, and true lovers, the story holds up affection and admiration as things we literally cannot survive without. I don’t want to say too much because most of the relationships in the book roll in and out of strained and passionate and I certainly don’t want any leaks to go running around.

I am so excited for this book to hit shelves in March. I truly love it and think it will be very well received. It’s really, not just one more World War II book.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. jpetroroy permalink
    December 20, 2010 1:11 pm

    Great review! I’ve heard raves about this and am really looking forward to the unique perspective.

  2. December 20, 2010 2:25 pm

    I’m going to be on the lookout for this book. It sounds so amazing. Thanks for the great review.

  3. December 20, 2010 4:28 pm

    Sounds very different! Thanks for the great review!

  4. December 20, 2010 11:39 pm

    My grandparents immigrated from Lithuania, so I’ve been really excited about this book. I’m glad to see it get a great review.

  5. December 21, 2010 12:38 am

    This sounds really beautiful!

  6. December 21, 2010 11:33 am

    This does sound like an amazing read and like one that imbued with a lot of feeling. I really loved your review on this one and am going to have to check it out. Thanks for the very passionate review!

  7. December 21, 2010 1:00 pm

    I have been hearing such good things about this book. I have it I need to dive into it soon.


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