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Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6153102,445 (4.27)168
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author's family, includes a historical note.… (more)
  1. 60
    The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig (keristars)
    keristars: "The Endless Steppe" is also a children's book about the exile of Russian Jews to Siberia during WW2.
  2. 20
    The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Great stories of hope and survival in the face of brutality and genocide
  3. 20
    Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail (joyfulgirl)
  4. 00
    The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (Milda-TX)
  5. 00
    Stalemate by Icchokas Meras (Othemts)
  6. 00
    The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov (Othemts)
  7. 00
    Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap (jillianhistorian)
  8. 00
    Torn Thread by Anne Isaacs (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: In these deeply moving novels based on grim historical facts, teenage girls exiled from their homes do backbreaking work in labor camps, one in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and the other in Siberia, while fighting hunger, illness, and despair… (more)
  9. 00
    Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These two historical fiction novels for teens introduce readers to little-known atrocities of war. Although grim in nature, both books are compelling and eye-opening looks into the horrors that have happened to people because of their nationalities or ethnic backgrounds.… (more)
  10. 00
    The Road of Bones by Anne Fine (celerydog)
    celerydog: challenging WW2 YA read
  11. 00
    Between the Stillness and the Grove by Erika De Vasconcelos (VivienneR)
  12. 00
    Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag by Janusz Bardach (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: A well-written and extraordinary memoir of a man's survival of the gulag. His story also starts in Lithuania during WW2.
  13. 00
    Leave Your Tears in Moscow by Barbara Armonas (fountainoverflows)
    fountainoverflows: A book which Sepetys alludes to in her author's note and from which she drew some of the incidents that appear in Between Shades of Gray. An important historical document.

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» See also 168 mentions

English (300)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  Italian (1)  English (Middle) (1)  All languages (309)
Showing 1-5 of 300 (next | show all)
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
I really enjoyed this story. I found the protagonist to be someone that young adult readers would see as relatable, as she is coming of age and trying to find her place in the world. She enjoys art and drawing and also writing. He world is turned upside down after the Soviet occupation during World War II. The Soviet secret police take her and her family and send them to a labor camp. Eventually, her father is taken away from the rest of the family. The protagonist turns to art and writing as her coping mechanism, and is secretly sending these items out of the camp in hopes that they will find their way to her father. The author does a great job of introducing young adult readers to the concepts of tyranny and oppression.
  Jeff.Condon | Jul 24, 2020 |
Well damn. This was definitely an unexpected treasure. Ruta Sepetys has certainly written a powerful novel. Filled with complex characters and at times quite horrific occurrences, this is one that's sure to stick in your mind for quite a while after turning the last page. Here's what I loved:

1) Lina. A lot of the time while reading teen fiction, I find it incredibly hard to cope with the female lead. There's the melodramatic, the weak (always in need of a male rescuer), and the overly nice (to the point of boring the readership). But Lina? Oh, definitely not. Lina is strong, and stubborn and she speaks her mind. Sure, sometimes it gets her in trouble, but she's confident and has hope under terrible circumstances, and I admire that about her.

2) The blunt writing style. Don't get me wrong, I do love some beautifully and poetically written prose, but the simplicity of the language/ writing really works for me in this novel. It does a great job to enhance the grim events Lina and her family undergo, with a bluntness that seems to want to entrap you in the story, and that it certainly does.

3) One of the Russian guards, Kretzsky. He's probably one of, if not the most complex character Ruta Sepetys has crafted in this novel. Misunderstood, and fairly misjudged, Kretzsky is a man of confusion and self doubt. And although I do not love his character, I do love his complexity and the manner in which he's portrayed.

4) What it teaches the readership. This novel teaches us of human suffering and endurance. It teaches us to believe in the unexpected and that there's always hope. It teaches us to have courage, and of small acts of kindness under immense hardships. To lose ourselves in music and art and words.

Ruta Sepetys has written a truly brave and important novel. A novel that will, I promise, keep you up at night with an urgency to want what comes next.

Read this review at The Book Cats ( )
  angelgay | Jul 1, 2020 |
A good book is a book I can't wait to read and also don't want to finish. Last year I read "in the shadow of the banyan" and loved everything about it: the characters, the style of writing etc... I picked up this book because it seemed similar to it and also because of the good reviews on Goodreads. It took me a month to finish, which isn't good. I ended up skimming most of the pages in order to finish the book, but I could have also just not finish the book. The writing was dull: short sentences, short chapters, no event was ever fully described, which resulted in me not caring for any of the characters. I didn't get to know them and I didn't feel like I was there with them. This was such a let down this book and I hope to pick up some good books again because I need it! ( )
  prettygoodyear | Jun 29, 2020 |
Wow. So good. ( )
  fancifulgirl | Apr 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 300 (next | show all)
Hope Morrison (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, May 2011 (Vol. 64, No. 9))
This harrowing novel recalls the systematic deportation of thousands of Lithuanians following the Soviet invasion of their country in 1939. Fifteen-year-old Lina, along with her mother and younger brother, is taken during the night and shipped off on a freight car for a six-week journey to a labor camp in Siberia. After spending nearly a year there, her family is again deported, this time to a frigid outpost in the northernmost region of Siberia, where survival seems unlikely. Conditions in the camps are horrendous, with inmates forced to perform hard labor in exchange for bread rations and denied the basic necessities of warmth, shelter, and sanitation. Abuse at the hands of the NKVD (Soviet police) is abundant, and horrific acts of violence punctuate the narrative. A talented artist, Lina draws for an outlet—; more importantly, she creates pictures full of coded information that she hopes will somehow get to her father, who is suspected to be in a Soviet prison. Lina’s voice offers a careful balance of emotional engagement and factual summary, providing a compelling account of this seldom-told chapter of history. The novel provides a testament to the power of community, as the deportees keep one another strong through the most traumatic events and hold on to their will to survive in the direst of survival situations. Readers will want to know more at the end, since an epilogue suggests that Lina survived and returned to Lithuania but leaves many questions unanswered; ultimately, however, this is a powerful story that deserves extensive reading and discussion. An author’s note, encouraging readers to learn more about the events in the book, is included. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Philomel, 344p., $17.99. Grades 8-12.

added by kthomp25 | editBulletin of the Center for Children’s Books,, Hope Morrison
Judy Brink-Drescher (VOYA, April 2011 (Vol. 34, No. 1))
Up until the night the Russian military pounded on her door, fifteen-year-old Lina lived a nearly idyllic life. She had recently been accepted to a prestigious art school and was told she had a very promising future. Now, men speaking a strange language are telling her mother that the family is being deported from their Lithuanian homeland. Without knowing the precise whereabouts of their father, Lina, her mother, and brother soon find themselves packed into a cattle car with many other frightened countrymen. With the help of sixteen-year-old Andrius, Lina discovers her father is on the same train but bound for a different destination. She decides to document all she can in images so he can find them later. Unbeknownst to anyone, many would not survive this trip, and those that did would end up in Siberian labor camps. It was also under these circumstances that Lina and Andrius discover the true meaning of family, love, and loss. In the shadow of the Holocaust, many might be unfamiliar with Stalin’s orchestrated genocide of the Baltic States. The first deportations began in 1941; many were unable to return to their homeland until the mid-1950s. Sepetys’s father and many of her relatives were among those who either managed to escape into refugee camps or were deported or imprisoned. In her debut novel, Sepetys offers both a compelling love story and a well-researched historical chronicle. The themes throughout this novel are mature, and therefore the book is recommended for high school and above. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2011, Philomel, 352p., $17.99. Ages 15 to 18.

added by kthomp25 | editVOYA, Judy Brink-Drescher

» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sepetys, Rutaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernard, MichèleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Jonas Sepetys
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They took me in my nightgown.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
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