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.