Between Shades of Gray


“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward.”

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.

Between Shades of Gray is an inspiring Historical Fiction novel set in 1940s World War II during the Nazi regime. Lina Vilkas, a fifteen year old Lithuanian who was deported in Siberia with her brother and mother. The Russian guards came barging in their door one night without knowing that it will change their lives forever. Through art, she documents the unimaginable cruelty of the NKVD soldiers and finding solace and peace through writing and drawing and buries it in a jar hoping to find justice.

World War II related books or Historical Fiction was never the type of book that I would pick whenever I go to the bookstore but this is an exception. There were times that I would pick up fantasy, New Adult, and mostly cheesy and sappy contemporaries but it’s the first time that I chose to read a 1940s war related book.  Maybe it was because of watching The Book Thief  that made me want to read this.  I never regretted it because this book is truly inspiring. It blew me away from the beginning till the end. I couldn’t put it down. I even opened my ebook while on class and on the bus which I rarely do of course. Between Shades of Gray talks about the horrid reality of those people who were oppressed during genocide of Stalin. It killed tremendous amount of innocent people. Many died because of famine and some suffered terribly to survive. Some were raped and striped of their dignity.  Who would have thought that an owl could be eaten? Or a pocket watch is worth a life?

Ruta Sepetys’ writing style is simple yet meaningful. Sepetys unveils the horrifying truth of World War II by telling us this horrible and disturbing scenes of every character in such a way that will make you close your eyes sympathize for those who are under Stalin. Sepetys didn’t hide the facts of the disturbing violence of the oppressed. There was something about her writing style that grips me and makes me want to read more. The plot and characters was perfectly woven until the end. The desire for survival is so strong in the novel. There were parts when I feel like that specific character might die soon but they can still find a way to survive. The family close ties and sacrifice for love was the main thing I love about this book. Even though Elena, Lina’s mother doesn’t have enough money to feed her children, she still helps the other families and even gave her share of bread to her children despite her hunger. Although the brutality of the NKVD is prominent in the novel, there is also a light little romance between Lina and Andrius which made the book a little bit fun and sweet in some parts.

I was even more impressed with Sepetys when I saw this video. She went to Lithuania twice and talked to survivors and even tried riding on the truck where Lina and her family spent their days. The pictures in the video helped me imagine their lives before. This novel captivates every reader’s heart and making us realize how fortunate we are. I recommend reading this book to all of you. I gave it a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads



6 thoughts on “Between Shades of Gray

    1. Thank you! I love how you write your review. I never thought of putting the vocabulary and even the soundtrack in my reviews. Thank you for your recommendation. I have never read a memoir before. This books sounds interesting. I might pick this up soon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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