16 November, 2015


Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Series: -
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: Kindle Edition
Pages: 344

Add to GoodReads // Buy on BookDepository

SYNOPSIS: 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 decided to read this book after reading The Book Thief and for some reason I was in the mood of wanting to know more about WWII. HannahCassie was it you who told me about this book? I don't remember but I think it was you...

THE WORLD: The story takes place in Lithuania during WWII (1941) and later on it also takes place for a big part in Siberia. Just thinking about those places makes me have goosebumps yyyyy too cold!

THE CHARACTERS: The main character is Lina Vilkas, a 15 year old girl from Lithuania living with her parents and her younger brother Jonas, who loves painting and does things 15 year olds do... all until the Soviets arrive at her town. Suddenly she is separated from her father and is taken along her mother and younger brother to Siberia. You can imagine the journey... first, all the prisoners in the back of a truck, then in a dirty train, more trucks, etc and all this with barely any hygiene conditions or enough food or water. Oh was already crying at this point. Historical fiction makes me cry because, although a particular story may have not happened, thousands more were similar or even worse! Anyway, once they reach Siberia they are forced to work for their food and Lina, brave Lina, decides she has to document everything going on via drawings and send them to her father for him to know they are alive with the help of her new friend / more-or-less-boyfriend afterwards, Andrius Arvydas.

PLUS: Where do I begin? The story is very powerful, all my feels were all over the place, Lina is a very brave and strong character and I enjoyed the relationship she had with her younger brother Jonas and her boyfriend Andrius, the narration was stunning! Beautiful, this book is just beautiful... and sad, very sad. Prepare your Kleenex or any kind of tissue.

MINUS: No big minuses.

OVERALL: 5 stars and a favorite. Let me tell you, I had no idea how much Lithuanians suffered under Stalin's rule... sure I studied WWII but the books always focus in Western Europe with a bit of USA/Japan conflict but Soviet Union? It is never mentioned. I'm glad I read this book and got to see a hint of what it was for them. SO DARN SAD.
I want to read Ruta's new book Salt to the Sea which will be released in February 2016. I hope it will be just as beautiful as Between Shades of Gray!


This book was my pick for a bookclub. It was mainly because it was written by Ruta Sepetys who is Lithuanian to some extend and also because the story is set in Lithuania, the country I was born in and lived before moving to UK and then Germany.

THE WORLD: The story is set in Lithuania during World War II as Laura already mentioned and partly takes place also in Siberia. Now, the story is actually set in Kaunas (my birth town) and Siberia, where many Lithuanians including my great great grandfather were taken.

THE CHARACTERS: Now I know to many people the names of main characters are impossible to pronounce but to me it was actually super easy. Why? Well because I am fluent in Lithuanian and well all these names, I know at least one person with every name. Anyways, the main character is called Lina Vilkas (Vilkas=Wolf). She is a daughter of aristocrat. In other words, she was already destined to be taken to Siberia simply because of that. All aristocrats were taken there. Lithuania really suffered in that way as no well educated people were basically left in the country. But that happened in all countries occupied by Soviet Union. In the book, Lina, her younger brother and mother were taken to Siberia. What Laura described already is actually also historically correct. People were slammed in animal train wagons and transported for weeks without almost no food or water. That is where Lina meets Andrius. When they get to Siberia Lina and Andrius become friends and later their relationship develops even further.

HISTORY: As I have already mentioned, almost everything except for Lina's particular story is actually historically correct. The thing is, the world calls Nazis horrible but nobody stops and thinks much about the fact that Soviet Union have done even worse things to people. Well, the thing is, you may think when reading this book that many things are over the top, that nobody would put people in animal wagons for weeks or that nobody would be forced to dig their own graves...well the truth is they were. In Katyn (Russia) the ground is still moving when you walk because people were forced to dig their graves and then were shot in the back so that they would fall straight into it. In Lithuania there is a museum where you can see old train wagons, a type of wagons that were used to transport animals and during war people. And Siberia? It is actually made better in this book, not so harsh as in reality. Because in reality the ground was frozen even during summer, people would get sick and do everything to die faster...And I did not learn it from books, I know about it because in my own family people went through it.

MINUS: I really disliked the ending. The story was made rather realistic and interesting but then we get this 'happy ending' which just reduces the value of this book so much. Well I can tell you one thing, people were not rescued like that. Soviet Union was up and running for many decades after the war and covered all their crimes and trust me, there were no doctors going to Siberia and being all amazed at the level of terror their. People died there. Or they came back to their broken homes and never forgot the things they went through. You do not meet a single person who survived it and is able to talk about it without tears even after this long time.

OVERALL: I think I cannot really talk about this book itself without putting my own experience as well as knowledge in it. But I am happy, I see so many people reading this book and loving it and it makes me smile because even if this story is a little bit turned down on the level of terror that was really present at the time, it still makes people aware of what happened and that such things should never be forgotten!

What did you think about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY?