Book Reviews

Book Review: Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Between-shades-of-gray   Thoughts: The atrocities of Hitler are well-known however, not much focus was directed to Stalin’s reign of terror around the same time. Between Shades of Grey instantly became a new nightmare but one of my favorite books read in 2013.

Goodreads 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.

“How can you call something beautiful when it’s soaked in so much horror.” Like I said, this book has become an absolute favorite of mine and it seems weird to come to that conclusion based on the subject matter. This is the kind of stuff we learn in school, in the history books, and I know that the book itself is fiction, but it’s easy to forget that these things described in the story really happened.  It’s a history, one written in blood and death.

Ruta Sepetys did an outstanding job! She balanced fiction and fact in a way that I’ve never seen before. The perfect mix. While reading, I instantly took a liking to all the characters introduced, both good and bad. They felt real and because of that I couldn’t stand the situations they were put into. Throughout the story we are given a look into some of the main characters memories from before these horrible events and it’s sickening as a reader to know nobody saw any of this coming. Sepetys molded past and present together while managing to keep the story flowing. A skill that many authors still haven’t perfected. – Our main character, Lina, couldn’t have been better. She goes through all this at the age of 15, and it was believable. Also, this novel contains some of the best supporting characters that I’ve encountered in a long time. I cared what happened to these characters and that’s important.

Before I wrap this up, I thought I should mention the relationship between Andrius and Lina. I find this book so heavy in subject matter that any huge love plot would have taken away from the story. I give props to the author for weaving that in but doing it in a way that doesn’t distract from the over all premise. As the reader, part of me wanted everything to work out so their relationship could develop further. This aspect was very subtle and sometimes that’s all you need. This is just one of the pieces that contributes to a sliver of hope, and it’s that hope that drives the story.

I could talk about this novel for hours and tell you how much I enjoyed it, but I’m going to refrain from doing that. This story was unbelievably emotional so I’d say proceed with caution if you’re thinking about picking this book up. There’s so much history chalked up into just 344 pages, and it’s books like this that remind me why I love the historical fiction genre.

“There is nothing that we can do now to change the past, but we can learn from it, and we can prevent such horrors from ever happening again.” -Ruta Sepetys

A definite wake up call for all readers. Between Shades of Grey is unforgettable…

Please let me know what you think in the comments.


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