Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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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.

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.”

This quote near the beginning of the book kind of sums up how horrifying this whole book is. It’s terrible, and yet so painfully beautiful. It brought me to tears, and things never got much happier.

Lina was an amazing character. She’s just a normal girl who withstands impossible circumstances. But she’s a wimp compared to her mom. Her mom was so strong and selfless. She’s an amazing role model for women. She would literally give anything for her loved ones, and puts herself last. And she was super smart. When everyone else was falling apart, she was the voice of reason who always had a plan.

The writing was so beautiful. It gave Lina a strong voice, and was full of such detailed descriptions. Even with a setting as harsh and horrible as this one, she found a way to add beauty to the most simple things.

I will warn that there isn’t much of a happy ending. It’s hard to find a happy ending in the Holocaust. But this book does end with a small glimmer of hope, and left me satisfied. I’m looking forward to reading much more by Ruta Sepetys, and seeing how her voice will further illustrate history in such a beautiful way.

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