Monday, August 27, 2018

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Written by: Ruta Sepetys
Published: March 22, 2011 by Philomel Books (Penguin Groups)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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.

I have been working my way through Ruta Sepetys catalog in reverse which means that it is time for me to read her debut. I know a lot of people really love this book and I am really glad I took the time to read it because it's a great piece of historical fiction.

One of the things that I love most about this book is the historical aspect. I love when historical fiction novels explore a period of time or an event without a lot of attention. Sepetys is a master of that and this book is the perfect example. Most books that take place during World War II are focused on the western front and about the Holocaust. This book focused on the east and was about what the Soviet Union did to the people of the Baltic States and some of their own people. Sepetys obviously did her research and really delved deep into the experience for the people who were forced to bear it. It was a brutal and terrible thing that happened to the people and this book doesn't sugar coat it. Even though it broke my heart I am really glad that I learned about it.

One of the other thing that made this book so heartbreaking is the characters. That is something that Sepetys does so well. She really knows how to make characters that are likable and sympathetic. Lina was no exception. She is the kind of character that is easy to root for for multiple reason. Firstly, because of the circumstances. But secondly, because she is a kind and loving person who puts others before herself. She's the perfect heroine for this kind of book. And then there are the secondary characters. There are so many characters that are just as likable and interesting. I was definitely a fan of Lina's family. They care so much about one another and the real heart of this book is in the story of family.

And once again Ruta is an amazing author who writing truly gorgeous prose. How she can make something so brutal and terrible so hopeful and beautiful I will never know but that is exactly what she did. Her writing makes it all come alive in a way that you can perfectly visualize. I know that this is being made into a movie and I feel like I can already see it based on the writing in this book. It's beautiful in it's brutality just like the Siberian landscape that the book is set.

The only thing that I didn't like about this book was the ending. It's not that the endings was bad, it just didn't build to the strong close I was hoping for. It had an ending but it kind of fizzled out for me. I kind of missed the falling action. After being so connected to the characters and the hardship they were going through I think it does the reader a disservice to not see how or why it all ends. I wanted that and this book did not provide it for me.

But all in all this was a really good read. It was my favorite kind of historical fiction with a unique setting, likable characters, and beautiful writing. I enjoyed it just as much as all Sepetys' other books.

I give Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. All of Sepetys' books are amazing and this one is fantastic. If you are a fan of historical fiction, or sad and serious books, definitely read this one and the rest of her catalog.

Have you read Between Shades of Gray? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks. for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I loved this book and Salt to the Sea. I agree about the ending, though. It’s one of those books that just kind of stops. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I never heard of this book or author but I really think that I would enjoy Shades of Gray. And I love that isn't focused on what most books set in WWII are. It sounds like an amazing read!