Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray, Penguin Group, 2011.
Between Shades of Gray
Written by: Ruta Sepetys
Reviewed by: Taylor Nguyen
Recommended Audience: High School
In 1941, 15-year-old, Lithuanian Lina receives the news that she has been accepted into the most well-known art schools in all of Europe. A daughter who has a beautiful mother, sweetest brother, and a professor father has the typical support her family gives. One night, Lina’s home is invaded by the Soviet officers (the NKVD) for a crime that they do not know; while her father is on his way back home. The NKVD gives them only a few minutes to pack their most precious belongings before they are deported to Siberian work camps. Lina’s mother breaks all of her valuable merchandise making her children question her why. The NKVD arrest Lina, her brother, and her mother, tearing their family apart. The three are stuffed into dirty cattle cars along with people who do not know why they are there and have had contact with her father. Lina’s romance with a captive 17-year-old, Andrius, slowly builds at this point. Lina starts to document events and messages through her drawings; hoping the drawings will reach her father or someone later in the future.
As the novel progresses, the chances of surviving are even smaller and the reason for their presence at camps is revealed. Between Shades of Gray, is Lina’s story as she, her mother, and her brother fight to stay together and to survive. The group is separated into a new list to serve brutal labor, but then again in the Arctic Circle; they do not know why, except one. Most of the deaths were caused by diseases; some deaths were caused by suicide and some by working.The moral of the story is to never take anything for granted.