This used to be a personal challenge for myself to do once every week. However, I have recently found myself reading a lot of short-to-medium length books and not feeling like writing a serious, in-depth review for each one. Therefore, my mini-reviews will just turn into a subcategory of my normal reviews. I hope this doesn’t confuse anyone. They will still have a word count of 300 words or less.
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.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Format & Pages: Paperback, 352
Published: April 3rd 2012, by Speak
Source: Providence Public Libraries
What a mind-blowing masterpiece of a novel.
Ruta Sepetys tells the tale of a few deportees from Lithuania who are thrown together in a terrible journey to a prison camp in Siberia. But she doesn’t just throw together a few adjectives and verbs and Soviet Union officers. No, she infused all of her writing with the souls and emotions of these deportees, especially our main character, Lina. That’s why this book hit me right in the heart: because I could feel every painful smack from the officers, every twist of hunger in her stomach, every reeling headache as she shoveled hour after hour. You get put right into the camp with everyone else, bending over and quickly threshing beets from their stalks, and feverishly trying to sneak a few into your pants. You can hear the bloody screams as mothers and sons are shot for disobedience. But it doesn’t end there.
No, Lina and the rest of them are then transported to the Arctic, with no food or shelter. They are expected to make their own huts from the scraps of wood that drift ashore. And not only do they have to get this ready in time for the snowstorms, they also have to build proper lodgings for the German officers, with fireplaces and a bakery and everything! Once again, you are subjected to the merciless wind and snow with all the rest of them, with the smell of baking bread wafting over so tantalizingly to your nose. You must help with all the others to save your teammates from hanging themselves on a pole out of sheer desperation. Your heart will split when you see that five poor souls accidentally made their door open inwards, and from being stuck in there are almost all dead.
It is an amazing, supremely immersing piece of historical fiction, but even for those who don’t necessarily enjoy that genre, everyone needs to read this book. Now.
(I don’t have my signature image available right now, I apologize)
Ruta Sepetys or Rūta Šepetys (born November 19, 1967) is a Lithuanian-American writer of historical fiction. She is best known for her novel, Between Shades of Gray, which was a New York Times Bestseller and Carnegie Medal finalist. Sepetys is a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow and the first American writer of young adult literature to speak at European Parliament. Her work is published in over forty countries and thirty languages. Visit her online.