Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 344
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: borrowed from library

Summary {via GoodReads}:
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 younger 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.

She thinks: This book will touch you way down deep in your soul. I constantly found myself holding my breath in anticipation for the next horrific event. It doesn't feel real, and yet it happened. We focus so much on Hitler's reign of terror that we push the atrocities from Stalin to the back. It is incredible to me that less than 100 years ago thousands of people were trying to survive any way they could in the Arctic Circle. My heart broke over and over again each time I discovered a new detail. I, for one, now know that I am not as strong as Lina and her family. I know I couldn't have survived; I won't even entertain the possibility. I would be lost and helpless.

Lina's will to survive and strength are not something she starts out with, and that's one of the things I love about this book. She develops it through hardship. She is true to herself throughout the book and acts like a fifteen year old would based on her circumstances and the situations she encounters. She doesn't hide who she is, even though it gets her into trouble with guards and other adults.

I was scared to pick up this book and read it. The subject matter is heavy to say the least, but I am so glad I did. Now, I'm prepared. Every year, my city takes about a month and a half to conduct a city-wide book club to broaden our horizons. This year, the selection is Between Shades of Gray. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the more popular picks!

If you haven't read this book yet, stop what you're doing and read it now. I listened to the book during a recent road trip. You won't be disappointed, but pick a long trip because you won't want to stop listening!

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