Review of Between Shades of Gray

   Title:  Between Shades of Gray

Author:  Ruta Sepetys

My Rating: 5 Stars

First Copyright Date: March 22nd, 2011

Genre: Young Adult, Drama Adventure, Romance, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Short Summary: 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.

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.” 

When I read this quote my reaction was this:

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What can I say? I am still recovering from this book. I mean literally recovering. It touched me in a way that Made me cry more than ever, made me feel mad, made me feel disgusted, and made me realize the horrors that these people had to go through. It made me realize what they had to suffer because they helped people or they were well educated.

This book had characters that were fictional but the whole story was real- it happened. These people suffered. Every horrifying scene that the book describes happened in real life. I never knew that Lithuanians were the only people that were treated like animals during World War II. I thought it was only the Jews but when I read this book I knew that I was wrong. Nothing is more painful than going through all of that and knowing that they had to suffer.

Happiness and love always comes when you least expect it. What made me happy and then made my heart break was their hope, their jokes, and Lina’s memories from long gone happy times. It was seeing that those broken hearts could still find inside them the force to care when there wasn’t almost any good left for them in the world. Also it was the way they were so strong and full of hope clinging to their dreams that they knew would never come true.

I loved the cover. It showed a meaning. I thought it showed that through that cold field( I saw it as the the Soviet Soldiers)the little plant was still alive, strong, and full of hope(the Lithuanians)even if it suffered through the cruelty of the winter. The cover was beautiful and perfect.

I loved the characters. They were strong and wise. From the bald man with his dry, mean sense of humor, to the little children, to the women who were strong and determined. A lot of people changed through the story. Like Ari said:”kids had to grow up and help the others in order to survive, old people had to hold on to their memories to keep going, parents had to sacrifice everything for their children. They had to keep inside their fury, their hate and their shame. They had to keep their head down even though they were the ones deserving respect, because even when they had nothing at all, they still had hope and they fought for their life at all costs.” And I agree.

I was glad that Lina found someone who she could have comfort with. Andrius. I loved him from the start to the end.

“Good men are often more practical than pretty ” said Mother. “Andrius just happens to be both.”

“November 20. Andrius’s birthday. I had counted the days carefully. I wished him a happy birthday when I woke and thought about him while hauling logs during the day. At night, I sat by the light of the stove, reading Dombey and Son. Krasivaya. I still hadn’t found the word. Maybe I’d find it if I jumped ahead. I flipped through some of the pages. A marking caught my eye. I leafed backward. Something was written in pencil in the margin of 278.
Hello, Lina. You’ve gotten to page 278. That’s pretty good!
I gasped, then pretened I was engrossed in the book. I looked at Andrius’s handwritting. I ran my finger over this elongated letters in my name. Were there more? I knew I should read onward. I couldn’t wait. I turned though the pages carefully, scanning the margins.
Page 300:
Are you really on page 300 or are you skipping ahead now?
I had to stifle my laughter.
Page 322:
Dombey and Son is boring. Admit it.
Page 364:
I’m thinking of you.
Page 412:
Are you maybe thinking of me?
I closed my eyes.
Yes, I’m thinking of you. Happy birthday, Andrius.”

“I left the jutra to chop wood. I began my walk through the snow, five kilometers to the tree line. That’s when I saw it. A tiny silver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon.
I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling.
The sun had returned.
I closed my eyes. I felt Andrius moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said.
“Yes, I will see you,” I whispered “I will.”
I reached into my pocket and squeezed the stone.”

“How did I get here How did I end up in the arms of a boy I barely knew but knew I didn’t want to lose I wondered what I would have thought of Andrius in Lithuania. Would I have liked him Would he have liked me”

“Andrius turned. His eyes found mine. “I’ll see you,” he said.

My face didn’t wrinkle. I didn’t utter a sound. But for the first time in months, I cried. Tears popped from their dry sockets and sailed down my cheeks in one quick stream. I looked away.

The NKVD called the bald man’s name.

“Look at me,” whispered Andrius, moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said. “Just think about that. Just think about me bringing you your drawings. Picture it, because I’ll be there.”

I nodded.

“Vilkas,” the NKVD called.

We walked toward the truck and climbed inside. I looked down at Andrius. He raked through his hair with his fingers. The engine turned and roared. I raised my hand in a wave good-bye.

His lips formed the words “I’ll see you.” He nodded in confirmation.

I nodded back. The back gate slammed and I sat down. The truck lurched forward. Wind began to blow against my face. I pulled my coat closed and put my hands in my pockets. That’s when I felt it. The stone. Andrius had slipped it into my pocket. I stood up to let him know I had found it. He was gone.”

The end was the most heartbreaking part of all. I can’t describe the pain I felt when I read those last few chapters and pages. This book was the most beautiful, amazing, saddest book I have ever read.

When I finished I just lied in my bed and cried:

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This book I will never forget and I congratulate Ruta. This being her first book, all I can say is that she did an amazing job.

See it in my Goodreads

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