Friday, March 25, 2011

[Review] Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Look at that cover! WOWZA!
Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 28/03/11
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Source: For review (Publisher)
Age: 15+ strong violence and mild language
Pages: 330

My Rating:

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.
My thoughts: 

Between Shades of Gray . . . wow. This book is a bundle of emotions, so raw in illustrating the harsh realities that the deportees in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, endured and could never really recover from. Most perished, but those who survived all have stories to tell, and Sepetys honed her focus on THOSE PEOPLE. Those who never had a voice, who had to live in hiding, hoping to return home, afraid of what the NKVD Secret Police might do next. Captivating prose literature that captures the heart of a lost perspective on the damages of the second World War. I'm really at a loss for words right now.

Lina Vilkas is a 15 year old aspiring artist living in the safe confines of her Lithuanian home, until her whole family is thrown into a train, no information reported, no questions asked. In a harrowing journey across thousands of kilometres, among thousands of other Lithuanian deportees, Lina and her family stay strong while others lose hope. Until, Lina's father is sent away. What will become of her and her family, as Stalin and Hitler reign terror on their homeplace? Will they ever return home?

Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary read. Sepetys writing style was brimming with raw emotion. It's a bit hard to explain: there was a grand amount of detail put into the novel, but it was really easy to read. When I first heard about this book, I thought it would take me at least a week to complete due to its emotional impact but the writing style and short chapters made the book a lot more episodic and ultimately much easier to get through.

Characters in GRAY were so inspiring. The amount of strength in among the hopelessness of the whole situation was truly heartbreaking. And I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that I love Lina and the dynamic with her family, as well as the budding relationship between her and Andrius. Sepetys captured to perfection the gruelling events that were never told in history. There were people who survived the deportation who were JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE IN THE BOOK. Which gives this book infinitely more oomph, more impact.

There were a couple of things that annoyed me a little bit. First off, the flashbacks were confusing for me, especially during the first 50 pages or so. I couldn't grapple onto it at all, but I eventually did warm up to and welcome them. Also, I was left feeling a little dishevelled. Only a bit; just because there were a couple of loose strings, some hopes left untouched. And I kind of wanted something to finalise it all. The epilogue was a nice touch, though.

Recommended to those with a heart; those with a longing for historical fiction that pulls at the tear ducts; people who are interested in WWII, Stalin or Hitler or the Secret Police; or just people who want to read a book that will make them think. As Sepetys says, "History holds secrets". This book fills a hole in history that is normally ignored or given little attention to, and Sepetys deals with it delicately and with an utmost sincerity that shows how emotionally attached she personally is to this particular period in time.


"I COUNTED THE PEOPLE--forty-six packed in a cage on wheels, maybe a rolling coffin. I used my fingers to sketch the image in a layer of dirt on the floor near the front of the train car, wiping the drawings away and starting over, again and again."

(p. 35 - ARC)


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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: 2011 YA Debut Challenge, 2011 YA Historical challenge
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