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Between Shades of Gray [Kindle Edition]

Ruta Sepetys
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (792 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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

A New York Times notable book
An International Bestseller
A Carnegie Medal Nominee


Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

A moving and haunting novel for readers of The Book Thief


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sepetys' first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. In the case of 16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, this means deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Lina's great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that can--she hopes--be surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future. Many others are not so fortunate. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, estimates that the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. Though many continue to deny this happened, Sepetys' beautifully written and deeply felt novel proves the reality is otherwise. Hers is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership. Grades 7-12. --Michael Cart

Review

"A harrowing page-turner." - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A gripping story." - School Library Journal, starred review

"Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers." - Kirkus, starred review

"Beautifully written and deeply felt." - Booklist, starred review

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
190 of 194 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
It's been a long time since a book has touched me as much as this one has. I stayed up late to finish it and even though I was so tired I could not fall asleep for awhile because I could not stop thinking about the story. The story was haunting and heartbreaking.

I have read The Diary of Anne Frank several times and in fact just re-read it this year and I'm sure that is one of the most well known accounts from a victim of the Holocaust and really helped put a face on the victims. I felt like this book did the same for me about the victims of Stalin's deportations. This topic was something that I studied when I took Russian in high school and Russian History in college but I did not truly feel the horrors these people went through during Stalin's reign. It's made all the worse when you read that Sepetys based some of the events in the book from stories that actual survivors recounted to her.

The story is told from the point of view of Lina and the passages alternate between what is happening to her in the present and happier memories from her past. Through her observations we see how different people reacted to their circumstances. Some were defeated and gave up all hope where as others were determined to survive whatever the Soviets did to them. The circumstances brought out such acts of depravity and at the same time unbelievable depths of kindness from unexpected sources that you have to wonder how would you react in their positions.

If you have never read about the re-locations that Stalin ordered of the native people of countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and other countries that the Soviet Union annexed then you have to read this book. The writing was entrancing and will keep you glued to the book until the very end. It's really hard to put into words just how amazing this book is but I highly recommend it to everyone. I'd even go so far as to say if there is only one book you will read this year, this should be it.
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
From my blog Never Gonna Grow Up.
I finished this book last week, but didn't get to sitting down and writing a review until now. This emotionally poignant novel shows us a World War 2/Holocaust story that many haven't heard before. In "Between Shades of Gray", we follow the story of one young woman who was taken away in the middle of the night from all she knew and forced to work in prison camps, being accused of being a criminal, and losing everything dear to her. This girl wasn't Jewish like beloved Anne Frank though and it wasn't the Nazis. This girl was from Lithuania and living under the oppressive hand of Stalin. The book is written in the style of first person reflections that in the end, we find out have been published to let everyone know about this little told story. The victims of Stalin's oppression were treated as criminals even after their release and were forced to never speak of the torture they endured. This story is fiction, but its basis is not. Drawing on research, talking to families of survivors, and on her own family's story of survival, Ruta Sepetys paints a vivid picture of the cruelty of war and injustice.

It is well written and for a historical novel and a very quick read. The chapters are short, but powerful. I wouldn't read it without a box of tissues near by. It's a tear jerker, but it is also inspiring. Lina is just a girl when she and her family are taken, but quickly grows into the woman she needs to be for her family. She is a character I think a lot of young adults can relate to, despite the incredible difference in situation.

This book is wonderful for anyone who loves historical fiction based on true stories. The way it is written appeals to adult and teen readers (who may have a shorter attention span for historical fiction). I think this would be a great book to accompany any lesson plan regarding WWII and shine light on a situation that not many know about.

Powerful stuff... well done, Ms. Sepetys.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and hard hitting April 16, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
It's Lithuania in 1941 and Stalin's soldiers are at the door, tearing Lina's family apart. Lina, a promising art student, is separated from her father and sent by stinking cattle truck with her brother and mother to a camp in Siberia. There is a lot of literature about the paranoia and fear that pervaded Stalinist Russia, but not about the terror Stalin visited upon the Baltic states. Lina's family are cultured professionals, which puts them in Stalin's crosshairs, even as World War II is unfolding in the background. The story is ostensibly Young Adult, because Lina is 16, but it manages to escape every cliche of the genre - there are no vampires and no werewolves, but something much more terrifying. The book is written with sparing, graceful prose and it's a gripping, heartbreaking book. I read it in one sitting. This is what a good book is meant to be - well written, with a page turning story that leaves you wiser about the world.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Harrowing and Important March 22, 2011
By Linds
Format:Hardcover
Here's the thing. . . even before reading this book, I knew that Stalin was responsible for the murder of some twenty-million people. 20,000,000! How does one even comprehend such a number? I clearly remember thinking in high school, "How? What deaths? Does this have something to do with the Holocaust?" Somehow, after the Victorian period and Russian Revolution, but before WWII, the USSR just appeared. It just happened. I can't make sense of how I did this (and I loved history class), but I think I somehow just attributed all those deaths to the Holocaust because they seemed to happen at the same time, but I couldn't figure out exactly where they fit in and why.

And, of course, there were no stories, no actual, personal memoirs to tell me differently. No versions of Schindler's List or Elie Wiesel's Night existed about the plight of these European nations, ones which we in the United Stated don't know nearly as much about as we do France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Twenty million was just a statistic to me - a wholly regrettable, but forgettable, number, because there was no narrative. Until now.

Between Shades of Gray is beautiful book about human endurance and the will to survive. Lina, her younger brother, Jonas, and her beautiful, courageous, hopeful, and selfless mother, Elena, are one of the most wonderful families that I've read about in so, so long, and it's due to this that they were able to cope as they did. Lina's coming-of-age into young adulthood is wretchedly overshadowed by the need to survive. Her thriving talent becomes her lifeline, her tool that keeps her going because people must know what happened. The descriptions are well-detailed and harrowing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good student level story to introduce topic rarely discussed at this level.
Published 6 days ago by Deb, the teacher
5.0 out of 5 stars After finishing this book...
After finishing this book I have been touched by the great fight that the three Baltic countries put up for their freedom. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Jenna
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very good read and sheds light on an aspect of European ...
This is a very good read and sheds light on an aspect of European history that I had overlooked. It is the story of a young woman's life journey as a soviet prisoner from her home... Read more
Published 10 days ago by donna
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
interesting characters and historical background of the nazis; this story is very moving and emotional
Published 10 days ago by ELVERIA BROWN-GOOLSBY
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Just what I expected.
Published 12 days ago by DAVID
5.0 out of 5 stars tear jerking
it brought me to tears & yet made me smile this tale is truly unforgettable like Lina's drawings pass along👐
Published 13 days ago by michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Incredible tale of hope and survival! Should be on high school/college reading lists.
Published 13 days ago by S. Teisher
5.0 out of 5 stars From a remarkable point of view, the history of a tragety
Is this the first of two books? Or the second. The fact that they are both Devine reads was very special! Read more
Published 13 days ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Gut wrenching
The beauty of strength is what the book is all about. You never know how strong you are until strong is what you have to be.
Published 16 days ago by Denise
4.0 out of 5 stars This was an amazing book! I learned so much about history that ...
This was an amazing book! I learned so much about history that I was never taught in school. I wish it would have ended with a little more about how Lina and Jonas lived after... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Samantha
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More About the Author

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Her award-winning debut novel, "Between Shades of Gray" was inspired by her family's history in Lithuania and is published in 40 countries. Her new novel, "Out of the Easy" is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. A historical tale of secrets and lies, "Out of the Easy" is a story of identity, family, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny. Ruta lives with her family in Tennessee.

For more information on Ruta please visit her websites:
www.rutasepetys.com
www.betweenshadesofgray.com
www.outoftheeasy.com

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