Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Who: Ruta Sepetys
What: Between Shades of Gray
When: March 22nd, 2011
Where: Penguin Books
Why: Plot
How: Traded

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.
I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to review this book, because I didn't think my words were enough. But I don't want anyone to be apprehensive to pick it up, because this is some of those rare books that changes lives. Between Shades of Gray is a poignant, beautiful, and absolutely heart-breaking account of a young girl trying to survive during Stalin's reign of terror.
I can honestly say, the major history dork I am? I had no idea about this. I knew Stalin, and what he had done, but the extent of his genocide on the Baltic States? Not unto reading Lina's story. Lina
is forced out of her Lithuanian home by the NKVD and sent to Siberian labor camps along with her mother and little brother, her father taken from them and sent to prison. Between Shades of Gray is her story of survival, love, and most importantly, hope.

Lina was determined and headstrong but at the same time, knew when to be afraid and silent.
Sometimes her slip-ups got her into trouble, but it was her spunk that she refused to lose that keep her surviving during the duration of the novel. Even when things were taken away from her (and heartbreaking enough, a lot of things are), she refused to give up. Her sense of hope and pride for not only Lithuania but the rest of the world to recognize the horrors Stalin was doing, was touching and keep me from bursting into tears in the middle of class.

Side characters such as Andrius were wonderful and the relationships that formed between them and Lina wove together perfectly with the story. Their romance was short, but tinged with desperation and hope that I found myself praying that everything would turn out okay. The Bald
Man, who frustrated me so much that at times, I wanted to kill him off, turned into a necessary evil and a moving one at that. Her mother had me cry, mostly because of how much faith she had that they would be rescued and how she took care of Lina and Jonas.

This is a story that almost never gets told. And I thank Ruta a thousand times for having enough courage to tell it.



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