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Between Shades of Gray

Average Rating 4.5
( 399 )
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(313)

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(11)

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(6)

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(10)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

44 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

Heartwrenching... beautiful... a story everyone will love

When I flipped over the last page of Between Shades of Gray, all I could say was "WOW".

Everything about Ruta Sepetys's YA debut was heartwrenching and, at the same time, beautiful. There were times when I would smile, but tears would threaten to spill at the sam...
When I flipped over the last page of Between Shades of Gray, all I could say was "WOW".

Everything about Ruta Sepetys's YA debut was heartwrenching and, at the same time, beautiful. There were times when I would smile, but tears would threaten to spill at the same moment.

Throughout the story, I kept thinking back to Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. But Between Shades of Gray stands out. The story of Anne Frank and all the hundreds of thousands of Jews prosecuted during the Nazi regime is well-known throughout history.
The people from the small countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other countries suffered almost the same way. Sure, they weren't gassed and thrown in concentration camps for the whole world to know. But that's what made it so horrible. The whole world didn't know.

I don't usually re-read books, but so many things happened in Between Shades of Gray that I want to relive to remind myself that the cold winters we face in our warm houses are nothing, compared to what Lina and her people faced. To remind myself that when there isn't enough salt in my lunch, I shouldn't complain.

I recommend Between Shades of Gray to anyone who has read Anne Frank's diary and felt something for her. And if you haven't read her diary, you should still pick this book up.

The efforts Ruta Sepetys put in for researching and compiling such a powerful historical fiction debut have not gone in vain. Pick up a copy of Between Shades of Gray when it debuts in March and relive the events of Stalin's Reign of Terror through a whole new perspective - the eyes of fifteen year old Lina Vilkas.

To me, the cover suggests the heart-wrenching sorrow to follow. It's beautiful, sad, and suggests hope at the same time!

posted by IceyBooks on February 7, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

The story and the characters are brimming with a potential that, in a lot of ways, was not fully realized.

On June 14, 1941 Lina Viklas is taken by the Soviet secret police. Along with her mother and her younger brother, Jonas, Lina is forced to leave her home in the middle of the night to board a train to be deported from Lithuania with thousands like her.

As they are ta...
On June 14, 1941 Lina Viklas is taken by the Soviet secret police. Along with her mother and her younger brother, Jonas, Lina is forced to leave her home in the middle of the night to board a train to be deported from Lithuania with thousands like her.

As they are taken farther and farther from Lithuania, all hope seems lost. Lina's father has been separated from the family to be sent to a prison camp. Lina's dreams of one day attending art school or falling in love are dashed. With nothing but the clothes on their back and a few precious possessions, how can they survive? Will help ever come?

Refusing to lose her sense of self along with everything else, Lina clings to what she does have: her memories and her art. While dreaming of her past, Lina uses her talents to document the atrocities she and the other deportees are forced to endure. Lina may be far from everything she once knew, but she will survive. Any other options are too horrible in Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Between Shades of Gray is Sepetys' first novel. It was also a finalist in the 2011 Cybils for Young Adult Fiction which is how I came to read it. Since its publication Between Shades of Gray has garnered a fair amount of accolades and even critical acclaim in the form of a finalist spot for the 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Sepetys, herself a daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, brings light to one of history's darker (not to mention lesser known) moments when the nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia disappeared from maps in 1941 as thousands were deported and sent to labor camps and prisons. These countries did not reappear until 1990.

Because of its content and its deft negotiation of this bleak subject matter, there is no doubt that Between Shades of Gray is an important, valuable book. It will undoubtedly be added to many history class curiculums and will raise awareness about Stalin's cleansing of the Baltic region.

Unfortunately, being an important book does not make Between Shades of Gray a book without its flaws.

Both the story and its narrator, Lina, are difficult to connect with. The story has a linear narrative of Lina's journey with the other deportees interspersed with flashbacks and memories of Lina's old life in Lithuania. While the memories illustrate all that Lina has lost, they also appear abruptly and at little to the plot's forward momentum. The ending is similarly abrupt not only having a a fifty-four year gap between the last chapter and the epilogue but also a gaping hole in terms of what happened to many of the characters.

Although Lina becomes a strong character as the story progresses, she spends much of the novel as a petulant girl who enjoys rash behavior and jumping to conclusions with little to no evidence to support any of her seemingly random assumptions.

So much emphasis is placed on Lina's art but the book as a whole provides very little payoff in that department. Granted, Between Shades of Gray isn't that type of book but I can't help but wish that readers had been able to see Lina's actual drawings after hearing so much about them.* If any book could have benefited from illustrations to add another dimension to the story, it's this one.**

Between Shades of Gray is already a beloved book for a lot of readers. It will likely reach many more. The story and the characters are brimming with a potential that, in a lot of ways, was not fully realized.

posted by MissPrint on February 28, 2012

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  • Posted April 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    review taken from One Book At A Time

    I must have had a great history teacher in high school because this subject is suppose to be buried and not very well known. But I remember learning about the atrocious acts against his own people that Stalin commited during World War II. All of these while an ally of of the US, Great Britain, etc. But then Russian history in the 20th century is bloody and cruel. I think anyone who thought otherwise was kidding themselves.

    I held my breathe the day the NKVD came into Lina's house and took her family. It's one of those things that you know what's coming and you can't help but feel that panic and confusion that Lina and her family must have felt. These people were treated in the same manner that the Jews were by Hitler. Only the world wasn't watching in horror. They were loaded on to trains like cattle with little food and water. They died from diseases that could have been prevented or cured. They were forced thousands of miles from their homes all because Stalin had labeled them political prisoners, or accused them of crimes they had never committed. They were forced to work long and hard hours for the little amount of food they were given and nothing more. They had to beg and steal from the soldiers and guards watching them just to survive.

    It was horrible reading about it. I'm surprised I didn't cry throughout this book. But, I think it's because I've learned throughout history that the human race is not always kind to it's fellow man. It's something that should not be forgotten, but sadly I'm sure history at some point will repeat itself. The way ray of light throughout this story is Lina herself. She never gives up hope. She's surprisingly resilient for a 15-year-old girl. She continues to try and send letters and pictures to her father in the hopes that one day they will be reunited. She stands her ground and doesn't lose herself or her principles in her struggle to just survive. And through it all she finds love.

    I really wanted to give this 5 stars, and the story itself is a must read. But, I didn't really like the ending. I knew it wouldn't have happy one, because really how could it. But then ending gave you the hope that things were going to be better, that they were saved. And yet, you know that Lena and her family don't go home for many more years after that by the epilogue. Were things better after that fateful arrival or was it many more years of the same?

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Amazing

    It was very very very good(: i enjoyed it alot but the ending was kind of abrupt. I just wish i could hav learned more about her life getting back home and stuff like that, but other than that i loved it and i couldnt put it down!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2011

    A beautiful, heart-wrenching story!

    My friend gave me this book and said "You won't want to put it down." She was right. I loved reading about the hardships she went through and readig about her falling in love. I will admit I was dissapointed in how it ended. But all in all it was a great read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys was sincerely one of the

    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys was sincerely one of the best books I have ever read. It was extremely
    well-written. I thought that the story that the charaters lived was horrible, abominable, and cruel, and I couldn't
    stop tears pouring out of my eyes. The way that the author described the scenes left me awestruck. Lina, the
    main character, finds her house, one day, surrounded by Soviet Soldiers. She has to leave her home to go on a
    journey riding a cattle cart led by the NKVD (Russian officer and soldiers). The train will bring her family, her new
    friends, and herself to a Siberian workcamp. She still has hope that one of her drawings, writings or paintings
    will reach her father, but she knows that if she gets caught, she wil be sentenced to death. This interesting novel
    will, without doubt, charm you and your friends. Lina's story will fascinate young and older readers as fast as it
     did for me. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Before you write this book off, don't think that this novel has

    Before you write this book off, don't think that this novel has anything to do with any sort of book that has in the title "shades" and "gray/grey."  Not even closely related. 

    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a historical fiction novel about how the Lithuanians were affected by World War II, specifically by Stalin and Hitler.  

    This is technically a young adult novel, but definitely has value for adults.  I had no previous background about the Lithuanian situation during WWII, and this book has inspired me to do a little more research on the subject.
    Lina, her mother, and her younger brother Jonas are taken away from their home in Lithuania and placed onto cattle cars.  They are separated from their father, who was also taken but placed with other men. 

    Lina and family are taken to the frozen land of Siberia where they are made to work in camps, complete hard labor, and struggle to survive.  Throughout the story, you learn about Lina's past through flashbacks that illuminate the relationship she has with her father and her cousin Joana.  

    This book has received mixed reviews, both by bloggers and on the review websites.  I can see the value in the the reviews, but I disagree with the negative ones.  I enjoyed the unique take on the stories normally told about WWII.  

    Lina shows great strength for a teenager, working hard while retaining a quest to survive, but she still shows vulnerability while experiencing a growing crush on a boy, even during this harsh time.  

    If you are interested in World War II and historical fiction, I think you would enjoy this story of Lina, told from a more unique perspective as a Lithuanian teenager during this troublesome time. 

    What do you think of historical fiction? Do you think it's a valuable way to learn about history?

    Thanks for reading, 

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Amaaaaazzziiiing!!!!!!

    I didnt want to put the book down. An awesome medley of suspense and romance. The ending left me wanting more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

    Between shades of Gray I think is a great story of love and will

    Between shades of Gray I think is a great story of love and will power. I think the book had a great plot and great characters. It takes place in 1941 when the russians are capturing people from the baltic states and are deporting them. It goes into this one family and their story which was about a mom,daughter, and brother (the father got deported without them). They had to stick together if they wanted to survive. I think the main character was excellent. I think she had a big heart and cared about people.I think that the message is that you can survive anything if you have love. I think that this would appeal to anyone because it is a great novel and it teaches you something about history that you probably never knew before. Hope you read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2012

    Really good book

    The story is a little slow at fist but it get's better as the story progresses.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    This book was amazing! It really forces you to experience what L

    This book was amazing! It really forces you to experience what Lina was going through. Touches your heart and even makes you shed a couple of tears...or a whole lot of them. Im not giving it 5 stars because it was sometimes confussing when Lina had the flashbacks. Wish for more romance and the end COMPLETLY shocks you. Nothing that I ever expected.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    I dont know

    The title and summary lokked really good so I got the sample but the sample had nothing exept the copywrite and stuff. It looks good and the summary is great so I put a good rating

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2012

    Good book, but keep the tissues handy.

    It's hard to say I "enjoyed" this book because the subject matter is so dark. But it was a good book, and I learned a lot about the Soviet bloc before and during WWII that I did not know. The heroine is an inspiration, much like Ann Frank. I would recommend this book, but you should know it is very hard to read in terms of being emotionally draining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good book! Very similar to Annexed, but a lot better.... Hard ti

    Good book! Very similar to Annexed, but a lot better....
    Hard time period to capture, the author did a great job with that!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2011

    Great story

    I was completely into this book from the beginning.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2011

    Interesting read!

    I found this to be a compelling historical fiction story.
    The characters were compelling and the story was engrossing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Can't wait to read it!!!

    Oh my gosh!! This seems like an AMAZING book!! It seems like a heart-wrenching, chilling, sad, but inspiring story. I tend to enjoy bokks about the holocost, so I think I will like it. So glad I found this book! I REALLY can't wait to get my hands on it!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2014

    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

    In this moving historical fiction novel of the time that Josef Stalin took reign of Russia, Ruta Sepetys paints a clear picture of what it was like to be alive during 1941, survival and/or death lurking around the corner, ready to pounce on you and take you by surprise. Lina Vilkas, age fifteen-and-a-half, lives in Kaunas, Lithuania. At the beginning of summer, preparing for a season of art camp, Lina is taken by surprise when NKVD officers enter her home and take her, her mother Elena, and her younger brother, Jonas, off to a destination unknown to everyone except for the Soviets. The story sort of lags off there, explaining in-depth what the cattle cars were like. We honestly don't need to know about Ona's journey, or the bald man's anger issues. But it kept me hooked. It made me think more about cattle cars and train cars, learning that every train in the world isn't exactly the Polar Express. I could relate to that smushed-in feeling that the Vilkas' felt, as well as Ona, Mrs. Rimas, the Arvydas family, Miss Grybas, Janina, and more. It always happens to me in the hallway of middle school, and I feel like the other kids are just idiots, not giving a thought, but they weren't given a choice, really. And when they entered the bathhouse, and felt the warm water pattering down on their backs, I realized that though I hate showers, I am fortunate enough to even have one available for my usage at any time. When they finally get to the prison camp, everyone is worn out to the point where they felt like they could collapse and never regain the strength to get back up again, which would actually be THE SUCKIEST BOOK ENDING I WOULD'VE EVER READ, but are forced to work their butts off until their death... far away from Mr. Vilkas. They labor to keep their families and theirselves alive, farming beets and potatoes, or digging holes for dead bodies, which actually brought along a connection to the book and movie 'Holes' by Louis Sachar. People start taking risks for safety, including signing a document that condemns them to twenty-five years of labor, and even sleeping with the Soviets for their well-being. Finally, when a list is issued for people to move to the Arctic Circle to suffer there, the Vilkas are prepared. Full of adventure, humor, heartbreak, and revival, Between Shades of Gray is a must read! * Rated PG-13 due to mild humor, language, conversations, and some intimacy. *

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2014

    Emotional

    I was drawn to this story. It was devasting. But could not stop reading. The scenery painted for you was beautifully written

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2014

    Really sad subject matter but so well written and interesting.

    Really sad subject matter but so well written and interesting. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2014

    Beautiful book

    Loved it! Definitely recommend reading. Amazing storyline and great history glimpse.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Greyson

    Fu.q yes he says as she cu.ms..he uses his other hand to grab her dress pulling it off

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