Between Shades of Gray

( 415 )


“Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.”The Washington Post

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, ...

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Between Shades of Gray

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“Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.”The Washington Post

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.


“A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant story of love and survival.”—Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls 

* “Beautifully written and deeply felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”—Booklist, Starred Review

A New York Times Bestseller
An International Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2011
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
The iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel
The #1 Book on the Spring 2011 IndieNext List
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
A Booklist Best Book of 2011
A Kirkus Best Book of 2011
2012 IRA Children’s and Young Adults Book Award for Young Adult Fiction
2012 Indies Choice Young Adult Book of the Year
A Carnegie Medal Finalist
A William C. Morris Finalist

A 2012 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Quattlebaum
[Sepetys's] prose is restrained and powerful…Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.
—The Washington Post
Linda Sue Park
In the 1930s and '40s, Josef Stalin's regime killed tens of millions of people, a number so large that the mind tends to shunt it off into the abstract space reserved for statistics. Between Shades of Gray tells the individual's story that makes such cold facts meaningful…Lina recounts her story with a straightforward clarity that trusts readers to summon images of starvation, disease and death, and grounds them in a reality young adults can understand.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Through the pained yet resilient narration of 15-year-old Lina, a gifted artist, this taut first novel tells the story of Lithuanians deported and sent to Siberian work camps by Stalin during WWII. From the start, Sepetys makes extensive use of foreshadowing to foster a palpable sense of danger, as soldiers wrench Lina's family from their home. The narrative skillfully conveys the deprivation and brutality of conditions, especially the cramped train ride, unrelenting hunger, fears about family members' safety, impossible choices, punishing weather, and constant threats facing Lina, her mother, and her younger brother. Flashbacks, triggered like blasts of memory by words and events, reveal Lina's life before and lay groundwork for the coming removal. Lina's romance with fellow captive Andrius builds slowly and believably, balancing some of the horror. A harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
Ruta Sepetys
Praise for Between Shades of Gray:

“A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.”—The Washington Post

"Beautiful…a superb though grueling novel.”—The Wall Street Journal
“An eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart.”—Los Angeles Times

“An engrossing and poignant story of the fortitude of the human spirit in a dark time in Lithuanian history.”—Associated Press

 “Brave Lina is a heroine young and old readers can believe in.”—Entertainment Weekly

 “Please read this small window into a tragedy.”—NPR

“Beautifully written and researched, it captures the devastation of war while celebrating the will to survive.”—Family Circle

• “A harrowing page-turner.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

• “A gripping story.”—School Library Journal, starred review

• “Bitterly sad, fluidly written…Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers.”—Kirkus, starred review

• "Beautifully written and deeply felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”—Booklist, starred review

“A haunting chronicle, demonstrating that even in the heart of darkness ‘love is the most powerful army.'”—The Horn Book Magazine

“Stalin deported and murdered millions, but he could not destroy the seeds of memory, compassion, and art that they left behind. From those seeds, Ruta Septeys has crafted a brilliant story of love and survival that will keep their memory alive for generations to come.”—Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls

“In terrifying detail, Ruta Sepetys re-creates World War II coming of age all too timely today. Between Shades of Gray is a document long overdue.”—Richard Peck, Newbery Award–winning author of A Year Down Yonder

Between Shades of Gray is a story of astonishing force. I feel grateful for a writer like Ruta Sepetys who bravely tells the hard story of what happens to the innocent when world leaders and their minions choose hate and oppression. Beautiful and unforgettable.”—Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Newbery Honor–winning author of Hitler Youth

“Sepetys has penned a harrowing and heartbreaking novel. Beautifully written and important.”—Harlan Coben, international bestselling author of Shelter

VOYA - Judy Brink-Drescher
Up until the night the Russian military pounded on her door, fifteen-year-old Lina lived a nearly idyllic life. She had recently been accepted to a prestigious art school and was told she had a very promising future. Now, men speaking a strange language are telling her mother that the family is being deported from their Lithuanian homeland. Without knowing the precise whereabouts of their father, Lina, her mother, and brother soon find themselves packed into a cattle car with many other frightened countrymen. With the help of sixteen-year-old Andrius, Lina discovers her father is on the same train but bound for a different destination. She decides to document all she can in images so he can find them later. Unbeknownst to anyone, many would not survive this trip, and those that did would end up in Siberian labor camps. It was also under these circumstances that Lina and Andrius discover the true meaning of family, love, and loss. In the shadow of the Holocaust, many might be unfamiliar with Stalin's orchestrated genocide of the Baltic States. The first deportations began in 1941; many were unable to return to their homeland until the mid-1950s. Sepetys's father and many of her relatives were among those who either managed to escape into refugee camps or were deported or imprisoned. In her debut novel, Sepetys offers both a compelling love story and a well-researched historical chronicle. The themes throughout this novel are mature, and therefore the book is recommended for high school and above. Reviewer: Judy Brink-Drescher
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
It is June, 1941. Soviets have occupied Lithuania—intellectuals are being deported. One night, fifteen-year-old Lina's home is abruptly invaded by NKVD officers; she, her younger brother Jonas, and her mother are given twenty minutes to pack and leave. Lina's father, a university provost, has already been arrested. From this dramatic beginning, readers follow the Vilkas family on a grueling journey from one bleak labor camp to another, ending at the most hopeless, icy Trofimovsk on the Arctic coast. In her own words and flashbacks from prewar life, Lina (a talented artist) records their story and draws her pictures, always hoping to find their father and determined to survive. Sepetys has drawn each character in the captive group (and one Russian guard) superbly, letting readers understand their motives, flaws, and strengths as the story progresses. Some, like a young mother and her baby, perish; others like Andrius and his mother are forced into bitter compromise with the NKVD. Most of the group help each other in whatever ways they can—Lina's lovely mother sustains them all. Young readers will find it painful to read about the cruelty of the Soviets, constant humiliation of the prisoners, debilitating hunger and cold, Lina's separation from Andrius, whom she has grown to love. Still, this story, little known to Americans, is important to tell. Sepetys, herself a daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, has done extensive research, traveled, and interviewed survivors to write a heart-breaking novel based on absolute truth, revealing the horrors and brutality of war, but also the power of love, understanding, and devotion to family and country. Two maps show readers the magnitude of Lina's journey. Those inspired to learn more might try William Durbin's The Winter War (Random House, 2008) about Finns (mentioned in Sepetys's book), also invaded by Soviet Russia. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
ALAN Review - Simon Gooch
In 1941, 15-year-old Lina's world is forever shattered overnight. She finds herself arrested with her family by Soviet soldiers, separated from her father, and forced into a cramped cattle car with other "undesirables." In a harrowing journey across Russia and ultimately Siberia, she witnesses and endures horrors that verge on the unthinkable. Forced into slave labor, deprived of human amenities ranging from healthcare to solid food other than stale bread, Lina and her family seem to be in an utterly hopeless situation. Yet, through strength of faith and love, they find hope in the smallest of occasions and mercies. Between Shades of Gray is valuable for its historical accuracy and its detail regarding the relatively little-known campaign of deportation and terror that befell many states annexed into the Soviet Union. This multilayered story is accessible, suspenseful, and powerful, delivering startling terrors and redemptive love in equal turns. Reviewer: Simon Gooch
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—This novel is based on extensive research and inspired by the author's family background. Told by 15-year-old Lina, a Lithuanian teen with penetrating insight and vast artistic ability, it is a gruesome tale of the deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia starting in 1939. During her 12 years there, Lina, a strong, determined character, chronicles her experiences through writings and drawings. She willingly takes chances to communicate with her imprisoned father and to improve her family's existence in inhuman conditions. Desperation, fear, and the survival instinct motivate many of the characters to make difficult compromises. Andrius, who becomes Lina's love interest, watches as his mother prostitutes herself with the officers in order to gain food for her son and others. To ward off starvation, many sign untrue confessions of guilt as traitors, thereby accepting 25-year sentences. Those who refuse, like Lina, her younger brother, and their mother, live on meager bread rations given only for the physical work they are able to perform. This is a grim tale of suffering and death, but one that needs telling. Mention is made of some Lithuanians' collaboration with the Nazis, but for the most part the deportees were simply caught in a political web. Unrelenting sadness permeates this novel, but there are uplifting moments when the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for compassion take over. This is a gripping story that gives young people a window into a shameful, but likely unfamiliar history.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142420591
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 17,952
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruta Septeys is the multi-award-winning author of the critically acclaimed New York Times and international bestseller Between Shades of Gray. Born and raised in Michigan, Ruta grew up in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Her second novel, Out of the Easy, was published to rave reviews and high acclaim in February 2013. Ruta lives with her husband in Tennessee.

You can visit Ruta online at, and follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys.

For more information, please visit: and

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1:

They took me in my nightgown.
Thinking back, the signs were there—family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.
We were taken.
June 14, 1941. I had changed into my nightgown and settled in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday.
The evening breeze floated through the open window over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana.
It wasn’t a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying.
“Mother,” said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through the crack in his door, “are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down.”
Mother’s head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. “Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won’t let anyone break down our door.”
The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother’s honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile.
Loud voices thundered from the foyer.
“NKVD!” whispered Jonas, growing pale. “Tadas said they took his neighbors away in a truck. They’re arresting people.”
“No. Not here,” I replied. The Soviet secret police had no business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our passports in his hand.
“We need more time. We’ll be ready in the morning,” Mother said.
“Twenty minutes—or you won’t live to see morning,” said the officer.
“Please, lower your voice. I have children,” whispered Mother.
“Twenty minutes,” the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 415 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 415 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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 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!

    49 out of 50 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Don't Miss This Book

    When I started to read the outstanding reviews for this book I knew I had to read it. This was a part of history I had never heard of. Stalin had anyone who he thought was anti-communist deported and hauled off to Siberia where they endured some horrible conditions. Some of those deported were lawyers, teachers, bankers..just every day people living their lives. The story is told by Lina, a 15 year old Lithuanian girl. The year is 1941 when the NKVD or Secret Police stormed into Lina's childhood home and rounded up Lina Vilkas, her brother Jonas, and her mother Elena. Her father was feared to have been arrested and taken to prison. They were led away in cattle cars and taken to a prison camp. Conditions there were extremely harsh. Eventually they are taken to basically a piece of land north of the Arctic Circle where conditions were unfit for animals let alone humans. The group of captives had to band together and become family to survive. Lina, being an artist kept track of their captivity by drawing pictures. I could feel Lina's hope throughout the story and found myself amazed at her will to survive. I'm not sure I could be as strong or as brave as she. The book is beautifully written. The subject matter can be uncomfortable at times but I think it is an important part of history that must be told. At one point the family is almost separated and Lina's brother is bought back by giving up a family pocket watch. When I read that I couldn't stop the tears. To think this went on and the world had no clue it was happening was just shocking to me. Why hadn't I been taught about this in school? I would like to thank Ruta Sepetys for opening our eyes and our hearts to this story. The story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. If you read only one book this year, let it be this book. It is an emotional but an important read. This is a book that will stick with me forever.

    29 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2011

    Couldn't put it down

    One of the best books I've read in a while. So sad and heartwrenching throughout but I couldn't wait to finish it to see what happened to them all. Thanks for the last chapter, I needed to know.........

    18 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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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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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    Moving book about a not-often discussed history

    Clearly, this book is not a pick-me-up, but the spirit of endurance that Lina, her family, and her friends exhibit is inspiring. Between Shades of Gray tracks the slow progress of Lina, her brother Jonas, and their mother Elena from their home in Lithuania to a work camp in Trofimovsk in the Arctic Circle. They suffer many indignities (to put it mildly) at the hands of their Soviet captors (so many and so much that I stopped marking them in my copy). The beginning of the book, especially, is very similar to the beginnings of many other stories about this time in Europe. The lists, the beatings, the cattle cars.

    I could go on and on about how the Vilkas and their group suffer. I could draw many parallels between their experience and those of Holocaust survivors. I could talk about how, at times, the weight of what they go through is crushing, but I don't want to. I want to talk about the points of light in this book that made the rest of it bearable (and when I say bearable, I mean in terms of the subject matter. The whole book is beautifully and compellingly written). Lina's memories of her father and of her cousin Joanna certainly help her through her trials, as does her art which she continues, and uses to her advantage in many ways, throughout the book. A sweet, little romance doesn't hurt either. But what really makes the work camps tolerable is what the deportees do for each other.

    Between Shades of Gray is an important book about a not-often-talked about event in history. For this reason, it will appeal to historical fiction lovers, and WWII aficionados. It's also an emotional read, with dashes of suspense and romance mixed into Lina's experience of oppression and, ultimately, loss. I highly recommend this powerful debut and look forward to whatever Sepetys has in store for us next!

    Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    One of the Best Books I have read in a long time...

    This book was truly beautiful. This story really moved me. It really showed the world what really happened when Joseph Stalin took reign. I will defintely read this book again and again. I would defintely recommend this book if you like history, but even if you don't, I think it would be a good read. This book inspires people to get back up when someone knocks you down. This book was amazing.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    One of THE BEST YA Novels I've Ever Read!

    Incorporating true accounts and experiences from survivors, this fiction novel follows one girl, fifteen-year-old Lina, and her mother and younger brother through the aftermath of the Non-Agression Pact and Stalin's plans. It's a frightening story. With the NKVD guard watching, the transported Lithuanians were sentenced to work on a kolkhoz, a working farm, and sentenced for ten years and longer. Farming for beets, digging holes, and only rationed 300 grams of bread per day, Lina and her family struggled to survive. There is no medicine and no warmth during the cold Russian winters at their gulag. Prisoners are starved, humiliated, and die. Lina's artwork was always startlingly realistic for her age. As several prisoners did based on true accounts that Sepetys gathered during her research, they documented tragedies through writing, drawing, and wood carvings. Throughout Lina's "sentence" in the camps, she tries to draw as much as she can, atrocities forever etched on the scraps of paper she can find. Fearful for what may happen, though, should they be caught, this evidence was destroyed or buried in the ground and never spoken about. Even after they were released years later, survivors were still afraid of being charged with another crime and returning back to the prisons, so they kept their stories buried. This is probably one of the best Young Adult books I've ever read. It's an intense and tough subject matter of unspoken history, and the writing is both vividly descriptive and heart-wrenching, but also maintains the authenticity that this is told from a teenager's point of view. Sections that struck me the hardest at times were those that recognized that even in the depths of sadness, there were moments of hope and love.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    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 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.

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    This is the best historical fiction book I've ever read. Most historical fictions get there facts wrong, but this book had accurate details and the writer manages to get a good story into it.

    I absolutely loved the plot and the different kind of character's. The only problem with it is after all that detail throughout the book, at the end it kind of just drops off a cliff (ended so suddenly with no detail).

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully written

    What I liked the most about this book is although it focuses on World War II, it's from a different perspective than what most readers are used to when reading something from this particular era in history. I think that although learning and reading about the Holocaust is important, let's not forget other tragic incidents that also happened during this time frame as those victims should not be forgotten as well. Personally, I have not found many fictional accounts concerning this time frame (and geared towards younger readers) and I am hoping Between Shades of Gray will be the one that will open the doors to a lot of readers on this particular subject. For one thing, it's good to know and good to let others be aware of this moment in history. Also, it's good because it sets the stage for other writers to write about this subject.

    This book has the most beautiful writing I have ever read so far. It's beautiful, yet at the same time, it's sad and the sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness is felt all throughout the book. It certainly does feel as if Lina and all the rest of the prisoners have indeed been forgotten by the world - considering they're placed in a camp in literally what looks to be in the middle of nowhere. What's ironic is they're labeled as thieves and prostitutes, and some of the prisoners have actually become that way as a means of survival. Lina and her mother are major beacons of hope throughout the story and it's through their unbelievable strength that they attempt to survive through this ordeal.

    What I also liked about the book is the several flashbacks Lina has, to contrast between how she lived before she gets taken and arrested. They almost seem trivial compared to what she goes through in the camp. When Lina finds love in the camp, it's what propels her to survive through this moment in her life. I thought Lina's relationship with Andrius was the main reason why she kept hanging on. Although she had plenty of courage to show, she needed something else to cling on so she won't lose hope.

    It's a bleak story, and gets worse later as the book progresses. The writing in this novel is excellent and makes the reader feel what Lina feels, the detail in the setting and atmosphere is well done and also adds to the feeling of the book. It's not until literally, the last few pages of the book where Lina's outcome is revealed, and leaves the reader with the feeling of hope, however with a melancholy feeling to it as well.

    One of the best books I've read so far this year, I greatly recommend reading this. The writing is beautiful, and the story although tragic, focuses on Lina's strength to survive and shows how courageous and hopeful one can be while enduring awful horrible events such as the one Lina went through herself.It's definitely not a subject for everyone to read, however it's not one to forget either.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    I have not read this book yet

    I have not read this book yet but i read the first couple pages and it was really good. I think i am going to like this book alot. ( i got this book at the school book fair

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2012


    I had an amazing time reading "Between Shades of Gray." It is an amazing survival story about hope, courage, and people loving and keeping their family and others alive. I lived in Lithuania for 14 years, but never knew the story in such details. It described everything just perfectly.
    I could never imagine the things Lina (main character) went through. This story touched my heart and made me cried a multiple times. I could not believe that people could be that cruel and treat people like animals. I never really liked a history books but my English teacher gave it to me to read it and I couldn’t put it down. I'm even thinking about picking book and reading it again. That's how amazing this book is.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    I made the mistake again of listening to other peoples reviews and buying books. Even though mostly everyone lovesss this book I didn't share the feeling. There was no romance in it and for us hopeless romantics that is a must! there one some parts that i wish werent there that made me cringe reading. I admit it was a well written sob story but it still wasnt what I thought when i first saw the back cover.

    4 out of 54 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    This book

    This book is a real attention grabber! Its a must-have in every nook!!! I say this book is the best ever written. Yes, people say that there is little romance, and i agree. But the little romance makes you hang on.

    This book is amazingly written! I bought it at barnes and noble and on my nook. Though i am only 12, i would say this is a great read and it is perfect for ages 12 and up. ( i wouldnt let young children read it though, some scenes are disgusting)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2012

    Changed me

    Look, its amazing! I feel in love with the characters instenly it truely changed me. Im only 12 years old and i love it. I am a huge reader and have read every type of book i dont just love history and i was so mistifyed by this i just stared at the cover when i was done! I say buy it give history a chance. It has romance, history, mystery,art, and a struggle of a teenage girl.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012


    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2012


    This is my favorite book! I could not stop reading it, so well written and wow interesting! The characterization is wonderful; you really know each one. How can any person have such talent and creativity?---oh yes, it is a gift from the Lord Jesus Christ!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    Amazing! I read this at least three times because I myself come

    Amazing! I read this at least three times because I myself come from Latvian and Lithuanian decent! A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Between shades of gray

    I loved this book. Ruta does a great job of describing the hortors of WWII. We usually just think of what the nazis and Hitler did but we should remember that the Soviets were just as bad...i am not saying anything against present day Germany or Russia, though. But i do not agree with what the did. This is a great book that i would reccomend to anyone!

    3 out of 4 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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