Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books
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.
There are few authors that could do wrong in my eyes, and Ruta Sepetys is one of these. Her writing is simply brilliant. I have to admit that I didn't know too much of the Lithuanian side of World Ward 2 until this book, but through Lina's story I am now completely in awe of what theses people lived through. I am sure my Social Studies teachers did a fantastic job teaching, but it just didn't sink in. Throughout this novel, I found myself laughing, crying, screaming and even praying! That is what good authors do. This book was simply profound. Lina is a character that everyone can relate to and will be rooting for. Her bravery is astounding and the way she tells her story is mind boggling. I loved this book from cover to cover and will definitely be reading it again. Absolutely stunning!
Ruta Sepetys has an investment in telling this story because this is the story of her family. This video is a fantastic resource to introduce the novel and to tell the story of the Lithuanians from Ruta's research and from the people who lived through this. Her dedication to getting this story out and getting it right astound me! There are also teacher resources located on her website here for teachers to use. Our students must know this story, and it is up to us to share it with them!