Monday, August 8, 2011

Mini-Review: Between Shades of Gray

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too busy or too lazy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys. The summary:
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
I was a hot mess when I finished this book--I cried for literally the entire last 1/4. And usually I hate books that make me cry, but “Between Shades of Gray” was just so painfully beautiful, I couldn’t help but love it; I think it appealed to the part of me that was addicted to books about the Holocaust in middle school. And the Holocaust comparison if fairly apt, I think, as the book tells the story of the horrific things Lina and her family endure in a Soviet prison camp. Before reading this book, I honestly had no idea things were so terrible in the Soviet Union in the 1940s--I mean, I knew Stalin wasn’t exactly a great guy, but I didn’t have a clue that he was responsible for the deaths of 20 MILLION people, or that he forced entire segments of the population of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia) into labor camps in Siberia, all so nothing would hinder the spread of the Soviet Union. If nothing else, read this book for the history lesson it provides--it’s a painful one, but one that everyone should know about.

The quote:
Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way. But it’s far more sincere in its clumsiness than those distinguished men you read about in books. . . . Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward. . . . Good men are often more practical than pretty.
And if you’re not going to read the book (or even if you are), watch this video. The author gives an overview of the incredible history behind the novel:

Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.


  1. You've sold me Karen! I'm going to get my hands on a copy of this book right now. This isn't usually a book that I'd read but the quote really sealed the deal. Thanks for the great review.

  2. I loved this book. I think EVERYONE should read it! This was a part of history that I never knew anything about and so glad I read this story.

  3. I loved this, too! And I posted a review, if you're interested in reading it.


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