Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Book: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Pages: 352
Source: ARC Tour 

Thanks Good Golly Miss Holly
Date Read: April 4, 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.

Yani's Analysis:
After I wrote this review I realized it was less of a book review and more of a discussion. Either way my thoughts where brought on by this book: the topic, the characters, and the writing. So I am leaving it at that.

When I was younger we read the Diary of Anne Frank in school and I became obsessed that such evil can exist in this world. I began to read anything WWII related: After the War Carol Matas, Number the Stars Lois Lowry. I even made my parents take me to the Holocaust museum in New York. Yes, my obsession was frightening, but I didn't want to ignore human cruelty, I wanted to learn all I could about it. Humanity is so complex.

The moment I heard about this book the comparisons began. It is hard with books with topics such as these to fictionalize and create realistic and relatable characters, but Ruta did just that with the main character Lina. Told in present tense with certain paragraphs about the past and reference to the future being brought up... Like when she is taken and she says she didn't realize that would be the last time she looked in a mirror for almost a decade. That moment I was affected and by page 31 I was crying.

It's funny how so many books now are based on possible future evils, dystopian and sci-fi, that society or the government causes and we just forget that humanity has let this evil occur before. I don't mean for this to be a political discussion, but this book reminds me that history repeats itself. And while we read these dystopian books for fun, a little part of me always thinks which one will be out future? And even in these worlds where evil occurs there will always be people like Lina, who fight to keep themselves human, even when other do not act that way.

That is the power of books such as these, we find truth and comfort that even in a time as this, there are those that risk everything to help one another. I really enjoyed this book, it was a little slow, but every second was powerful and heart wrenching. You don't hear much of the plight of Stalin's victims, usually its just Hilter's victims and that is a shame. Thank you Ruta for giving the world this book.


Plot: 5/5
Writing Style: 5/5
Uniqueness: 5/5
Characters: 5/5

Other Memorable Quotes:
"I pictured a rug being lifted and a huge Soviet broom sweeping us under it."

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