Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: March 2011
Published By: Puffin Books
Goodreads Rating: 4.42 stars
Review: In 1941, Lina is a normal Lithuanian girl, painting, drawing, and crushing on boys. Until one day, she and her family are stolen from their homes and separated from her father. She, her mother, and little brother are forced on a dirty, crowded train car to a desolate work camp in Siberia under Stalin's orders. Almost completely devoid of hope, she leaves behind drawings on whatever she can find, praying that they will somehow get to her father so she'll know he's safe. But in a place with almost no life, how will they survive?
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY was both an ugly and beautiful story. It was ugly because of the horrific events it dealt with, describing the trials and tribulations Lina, her family, and others had to suffer through and the degradation forced upon them by fellow human beings. However, it was beautiful because of how the subject was handled, with both grace and honesty. Ruta Sepetys spun gorgeous prose that was so lovely and stark all at the same time. This book was full of phrases that made you read them over and over again because of how simply amazing they were.
As powerful as this book was, I did feel like there were parts that could have had more of an impact. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I won't go into great detail, but there were certain scenes that while very, very sad, they didn't produce as much of a visceral reaction as they could have. Of course, this is not to say that no emotion at all was provoked from me - my stomach was frequently in knots of horror for Lina, but I was never moved to tears, although this is hard to get from me.
Dealing with a part of World War II not often covered in young adult fiction, Ruta Sepetys creates a brutally honest and gritty world that holds nothing back. Yet even in the very ugly scenes she paints, she finds the beauty and hope and brings it out to show how truly moving and amazing the survival of the people was. Some may find the ending too convenient and certain scenes holding less of an impact than possible, but overall, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is a hauntingly heart-breaking novel.