Mar 072011

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Pages: 352
Source: ARC copy from a fellow blogger

From Goodreads:
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.


WOW… just wow.

I had to let this sink in for a little while before I could even attempt to write a coherent review. I’ll start out by giving major kudos to the author for writing a YA book about this topic and set in this time period in history. I have never read a book, let alone a YA book, set during Stalin’s rule and I definitely learned a lot.

While there are many underlying themes in this book, two of them stuck with me the most. The first was how much this book will put things into perspective for you. You think you’re having a rough day – maybe your hair won’t go a certain way or someone said something mean about you, or the barista at Starby’s didn’t get your order exactly right (yeah I’ll admit, I’m guilty of all of these). Then you read Between Shades of Gray and you realize how much worse it could be. You could have been kidnapped straight from your home with only the clothes on your back and a few possessions. You could be living in a train car w/no fresh air, food, or water. You could be using a hole in the floor for the bathroom. Or you might have to bathe in front of leering men, or watch people suffer and die for no reason other than because of what country they were from. I’m not trying to demean anyone’s issues, but for me it really put things into perspective and made me think twice about what really upsets me.

The second theme that stuck with me was the underlying current of hope and love. Even with a storyline that is filled mostly with hate and despair, the author still manages to inject the story with love and hope. You will not find any love triangles or high school drama in this book. You will find a mother’s basic instinct to protect and nurture her children. You will find a love blossom between two people forced into the same terrible position. You will find a woman who must resort to prostitution in order to keep her child alive. Not exactly something most of us think about on a regular basis for sure.

As for the individual characters – amazing. Your heart will literally break for Lina, Elena, Jonas, Andrius, and most every other character in the book. You see how fast Lina and Jonas have to grow up and deal with things far beyond their years. You will loathe the NKVD and how they treated people. You will want to comfort people, heal people, and kick people in the head all at once. It’s amazing the thought process of some of these people back then and the lengths they would go to in order to carry out their plans.

Another aspect that I loved about the book is how Lina’s drawings drew you into the story even more. You could vividly paint a picture in your mind of the conditions they were in and the things they saw. They weren’t pretty or flowery, but raw and intense and true.

I seriously recommend this book to EVERYONE. I sincerely hope Ruta Sepetys writes more books because I will read anything this phenomenal writer produces. Stay tuned for an interview with the author and a giveaway of this amazing book!



  21 Responses to “Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys”

  1. WOW! This sounds awesome. Gonna have to check it out even though I’m not a fan of stories set in earlier time periods.

    Nice review, Tara! :]

  2. Amazing review, Tara! You made me want to run to my nearest bookstore (30 miles away), and grab a copy of this book! (Also unlikely at 1:07 AM, but it’s the thought that counts.) Your review was emotional, thorough, and conveyed how much you truly loved this book. It’s definitely one I need to read, and one I should buy soon :)

  3. A book I would definitely want to read! Thanks for a well-balanced review!

  4. Hahaha wow check out that rating!

  5. I can tell you really like this because I think this is the longest review I’ve seen you post! I really can’t wait for this one!

  6. Oh wow Tara. I think this is probably your best review written, to date. Simply amazing! When a book effects a reader as much as this one has for you, it has to be good – right?! I’m looking forward to your author interview & that giveaway of course! Really want to read this book now :-)

  7. Wonderful review, I need to read this one next!! I just know it’s going to be so sad :(

  8. Sounds like a really intense book but you are right about the fact that we live in a bubble and we forget how hard people had it. Sounds like a book we should all read. Great review and I love your rating!

  9. I’ve heard such good things about this book. Thanks for the lovely review, I can’t wait to read it!

  10. Great review! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one. It sounds like a harrowing read, but one that’s not to be missed!

  11. Wow is right Tara! That was a heck of a review, I found it to be fully coherent;) Seriously though, this book sounds unbelievable, and I absolutely understand your point about it putting things in perspective. I have to add this one to my list immediately, anything you give a 5 (+1,000,000) is more than worthy of a read.

  12. I loved this book too. It is one of my all time favorite reads. Great review.


  13. Freaking buying this one now or rather, pre-ordering it. It is always difficult to read about children having to skip their childhood because of conditions beyond their control.

    Stellar review. Thanks Tara.

  14. Amazing review. This is the second one I’ve read about this book today and I’m going to have to move it to the top of TBR list. Sounds like an emotional, raw book–a great break from the current reading list.

  15. great review. This looks extremely good. I can’t wait to read it.

  16. I have an ARC of this one that I am starting this week or next. . . I am going to need tissues, aren’t I? Your review is beautiful, Tara – I love long, detailed ones, and this one shows a lot of heart!

  17. I’m glad that you loved it. The book was just incredible!

  18. I also loved this book! Read and reviewed it recently.

  19. [...] and the Bookish deserve a shoutout for hosting Top Ten Tuesday! *** 1) Ruta Sepetys – Between Shades of Gray review (review of Out of the Easy coming soon!) 2) Tahereh Mafi – Shatter Me review (Unravel Me [...]

  20. You did such a great job at nailing this review, hitting on all the important stuff without spoilers. I just finished this one up and posted a review. It was a hard book to read and even more difficult to write a review that did it the justice it deserved. The most shocking thing for me was how one character totally changed into something different, when I never believed it was even remotely possible.
    Gina @ My Precious recently posted..Book Reviews: Between Shades of GrayMy Profile

    • Thank you so much! It is one of my favorite YA books, even though the subject matter is very heavy and gut-wrenching. Her next book, Out of the Easy, is really amazing and I highly recommend!

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge