12 May 2012

Review: Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published: 1 April 2011

Pages: 344 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

My Thoughts

Most of the information and books I have read about World War II is focused mainly on Western Europe and the plight of the Jewish people. So when I saw that Between Shades of Gray was set in Lithuania, I was intrigued - sure, I had heard the figures of how many Lithuanian and Estonian civilians died in WWII, but I had no idea what had actually happened to all those millions of people.

Between Shades of Gray tells a harsh, heartbreaking story of one family and their treatment at the hands of the soviets who invaded their country, stole their homes and used them for cheap forced labour in some of the most isolated and harsh locations in the world.

Lina is a wonderful character - strong, family-oriented and talented. Her love and dedication to her family is particularly moving, as is her inner strength and determination, and the conditions in which they live are truly horrifying.

This is an intense page-turning story - well written, emotional and compelling, with great characterisation. But (yeah, could you see that one coming?) I think that unfortunately this one was just a little too hyped up for me, and the book didn't exactly meet my expectations - it is certainly moving, but I have read several other accounts of WWII that were more terrifying and emotional. Perhaps it was 'edited' for the audience - although this is a great read as an adult, it is marketed as a YA book, and that is probably why it didn't resound with me as deeply. Although I'm probably sounding quite negative, I'm not at all - this is just my personal opinion - there's nothing at all wrong with this book, and I found myself returning to read 'just one more chapter' whenever possible.


  1. I totally agree with you, it was an intense story. I also found myself saying 'just one more chapter'. It was a really quick read and pretty heartbreaking, though I love the way it ended. Great review! :)

  2. Always interesting to hear what an adult has to say about the book, someone who has other things to compare it to. I was blown away by this book, it really ran my blood cold all throughout. What a harrowing read. I've read it twice and the second time around I was just as affected by all that happened. I just have major love for this book.

  3. I have been looking forward to read this one since forever. I think I will do it soon now.

    What other books on the subject appealed to you more, Kat?

  4. I loved the book! It has great descriptions of emotions. Very detailed. i could never put it down. Best book ive read this year:)

  5. Used them for cheap forced labour in some of the most isolated and harsh locations in the world.
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