“Between Shades of Gray” by Ruta Sepetys


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published on March 22, 2011 by Philomel Books

Genres Historical Fiction, Fiction, Young Adult, World War II

Pages 344

Buy on Amazon http://amzn.to/21hgd0G

“Between Shades of Gray” is based mainly on the Vilkas family, who are living in Lithuania in 1941, before being deported after being recognized for anti-Soviet agendas. The main character in the book is Lina, who is 15 when the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, come one evening and put family on a train. Her father, who works at the university, has been deported separately from Lina, her mother and her brother. They are put into what sounds like a cattle car in horrible conditions for 6 weeks while being transported to Siberia, where they are forced to labor on a beet farm under the rule of Stalin. After spending almost a year there, they are then once again moved to another labor camp, this one close to the North Pole in the Arctic Cycle. The conditions are even worse, the weather is almost non-survivable and the work is hard. Lina finds comfort in her art, documenting the things that she experiences and witnesses through drawing. She tries to get messages to her father this way as well, passing drawings and coded information from person to person. Along with this book being about World War II, it also deals with love, family, courage and survival.

The conditions are terrible and the things that Lina and her family witness and endure are what we now typically associate with the Holocaust and World War II. However, after reading many more graphic books about the Holocaust, this book is mild in compassion. I believe the author may have done this because the book is more of a young adult book. For the most part, I enjoyed the author’s writing style and this is the first book I have read by Ruta Sepetys. I did not really enjoy the ending on this book because it kind of just ends. And then there is an epilogue, but it jumps forward about 45 years, so it answered a few of my questions, but left a lot of them unanswered. Overall, it was a good book and a book about how people were forced into labor camps and treated horribly by the Soviets during World War II, when we usually find these types of books being based around how the Germans acted. Reading it as an adult, after I have read books such as “Night” by Elie Wiesel, the author’s description of the conditions in the labor camps is just much more mild than what I have previously read from both fiction and non-fiction books.

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