16 May 2011

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: April 7, 2011 (UK)
Publisher: Philomel Books
Rating: 10 out of 10
Recommended? Yes. You’d be crazy not to read this.
Buy the Book: Amazon US

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. - Goodreads Page
The book starts off with Lina and her family being taken from their home in Lithuania by Soviet guards and deported to Siberia. The beginning gripped me, as there was no slow starts, and I was immediately thrown into the story and captivated.

A lot of the book takes place in very, very confined spaces, and the descriptions during these scenes – as well as throughout the book – were horrifically vivid. I felt so connected with this story that I felt enclosed, even claustrophobic, and I had to keep putting the book down to give myself a chance to calm down.

In the four schools I have been to, during history classes, we learnt a lot about Hitler. I think that’s a given, no matter where you are from. What we didn’t learn, however, was anything at all about Stalin. Or the Soviet Union. Or the millions upon millions of people who were deported from countries such as Finland, Latvia and Lithuania. If we wanted to know about that aspect of WW2, then we had to research for ourselves. Reading this book gave me such a fantastic first person account (albeit fictional) of what it was like to be one of those people who were deported, shoved into crammed cattle cars, and forced to work for the Soviets. It has made me realise that despite researching on the internet, I know next to nothing about what went on in those years. I am horrified that while we were being taught about Hitler’s new education system, and the Brits saving the day, that is barely touching the surface.

The main characters in this book were all amazing. They had so many different sides to them, and they weren’t boring in the slightest. Each and every one of them touched my heart. I am amazed that no matter how bad things got – and believe me, things got terrifying – they managed to pull through, and look out for each other in ways that that I could never have imagined.

If you don’t pick this book up, you’re crazy. This is one of the first historical that I have read in years,  and it’s definitely one of the best out there. From what I’ve seen, anyway. The story is truly heartbreaking, and I applaud Ruta Sepetys for writing such an honest and gripping novel. It left my speechless.


  1. Oh my gosh. I loved this book soooo much. Such a moving, important read. I've recommended it to so many people. I can't wait to see what comes next from Ruta Sepetys!

  2. This has been on my tbr list for a while, I cannot wait to read it.

  3. Cat - AGREED! I haven't had a chance to recommend it to many people, but I am stunned at how fantastic this book is! I wonder what will be coming next. I have no doubts that it will be good :D

    Larissa - Let me know when you do, I'd like to know what you think! It's truly unbelievable!


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