Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pub. Date: 04/03/12
It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s 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 wish I had been more prepared mentally before starting this book. I mean, I thought I was because I have already read it’s sister book, Salt to the Sea. However for some reason, I was still taken aback at how intensely tragic this book is from the start. There is no moment of relief until the absolute last paragraph. There is also no easing into it; the story starts off with Lina and her family being taken from their home. From there, they start their awful journey with hundreds of other people in less than sanitary conditions. I kept waiting for some bright light amidst the darkness. I thought surely there will be some positivity along the way, it’s a YA book! NOPE, there was no sugar coating happening here. I guess you could argue that the positivity was the character’s strength, hope and relationships during such a dark time. But when THAT is the glimmer of light, you know you are in for a tearjerker. In all honesty, I had a hard time getting through it. I kept telling myself “okay, if it doesn’t get better by page 100 then I’m putting it down.” Page 100 turned into page 150, 175, and so on. I ended up having to finish it because if I didn’t I would be worried about the characters forever.
When reading Between Shades of Gray, your heart aches for all of these people. I was worried and stressed for them the whole time. You can’t help but put yourself in this situation and thank your lucky stars that you are nowhere near. I love that fact that Sepetys’ books bring parts of history that no one talks about to attention, I had no idea this story was in Lithuania’s past. Just like I had no idea about the sinking of a giant boat with thousands of people on it in Salt to the Sea. How do we not know? And what else don’t we know about? After I finished these books I found myself doing further research because I wanted to know more. I also love that her books are in the YA section, a place historical fiction is not typically found.
I have a great appreciation for books that make me feel as much as Ruta Sepetys’ books do. As far as I am concerned, if you can make me that emotional (I cried twice), then you are a good writer. I am supportive about how dark this book is, because it gives you a small glimpse of what life was like at this time and place, and I know that is what the author is trying to do. I recommend this to anyone because it bring so much awareness to a story in history that we most likely were not taught in school. As for me, I am going to go try to get my hands on Ruta’s other book, Out of the Easy.