Book Review–Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


This is the 91st book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

Picture Source:
Picture Source:

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published January 1st, 2011


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’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. Now I’m wishing I would have read it sooner, though reading it in the winter was somewhat fitting. This book reminded me of The Book Thief, but it was also very different. This book is about a family from Lithuania who is deported before WW2 begins.

I really liked the main character, Lina. It was easy to relate to her because she is an artist like I am. I also enjoyed her mother, brother, and love interest. The bald man and the man who kept wounding his clock were also interesting characters. I also liked the character development of Nikolai Kretzsky. The other characters definitely grew as well and I like that despite everything she was put though, Lina ended up being a very strong woman.

This book is filled with sadness and hardship, but also has many happy and hopeful moments. I didn’t cry, but I felt very sad for some of the people who didn’t make it. Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Lithuania and that Stalin had deported and caused so many people harm. I truly feel bad for anyone who had to go through this, though I’m glad that their story finally got told.

I enjoyed the writing style and the author did a great job bringing the characters and settings to life. The addition of the Russian words were also a nice touch.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending–epilogue style. It just seemed a bit out of place, even after reading the explanation afterward in the Author’s Note. It also left the unanswered question of whether Lina’s father made it or not. I did like Lina’s attitude before the Epilogue, though. VERY powerful.

If you liked The Book Thief or are touched by historical fiction during WW2, you’ll probably love this one. I’m sure I will be reading this one again in the future.





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