Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 338
Publisher: Philomel Books
Published: March 22nd, 2011
IBSN: 9780399254123

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. 

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

Between Shades Of Gray is a emotive and moving story about Lina and her family's fight for survival as Lithuanians relocated to a work camp by the Soviets during World War II. It is Ruta Sepetys debut novel.

Lina was a dynamic character. While you could see how she retained some of her character under the arduous conditions, the way she changed and developed was also clear. I found it particularly admirable how she and her family were generally kind and generous in spite of the setting.

Lina's personality in her voice was clear, and her tone varied between depressed, angry, and tormented. Her emotions were written so well that I couldn't help but feel for her.

The writing style was extremely emotive, figurative, and poetic. I can only describe its quality in how it made me feel reading it: like I was there, feeling the same things Lina was with her.

The ending was sad, and yet hopeful. A perfect, satisfying, and realistic conclusion to the story. I usually dislike epilogues, but the one in Between Shades Of Gray didn't feel tacked on, but gave the readers reassurance.

I give Between Shades Of Gray a 5 out of 5. It was touching and unique to anything else in the YA genre. I'll end this review with my favourite quote:

"I pictured a rug being lifted and a huge Soviet broom sweeping us under it." - page 23.

Recommend it for fans of: I haven't really read anything like this before, except for Night by Elie Wiesel. But that's not YA, and it's also a real memoir.