Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

TitleBetween Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9780399254123
Length: 341 pages
Published: March 29, 2011
Source: public library
Rating: 3.5/5
Resolutions: Published in 2011 Resolution (this book actually completes that resolution!!)

Reason for Reading: During my hunt for books to be released in 2011, I found out about this one. Plus, Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick raved about it 🙂 Here is her review and a vlog post in which she further recommends it.


In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina’s father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

My Thoughts: Rating this book was really hard for me. In the end, I just had to give it a rating between two whole ratings. I was torn between a neutral feeling and an I’m-glad-I-read-it feeling for this one. I really couldn’t decide. So I went with a 3.5 rating.

I found the subject of the book interesting–Lina was deported from her home in Lithuania by the Soviet army towards the beginning of WWII (even though this had nothing to do with WWII, it was still the same time) and sent to a labor camp in Siberia. I have not read much or even really learned about what was going on in the USSR in the 1940s aside from there eventual involvement in WWII. So this look at Stalin’s gulag system was interesting to me.

And while Lina was a strong character (as far as endurance), I didn’t much care for the narration. The whole situation in which she found herself was complicated, but Sepetys wrote it in a simple way–I didn’t feel very much depth when I read. I understand that this simpleness might have been intentional because the intended audience for the book is teens. And, in a way, Lina’s narration was very “teenage” if that makes sense–sort of self-centered, but not necessarily in a bad way. And I realize that I had wanted to know more about the general picture of the gulag system and not just one person’s view, so that is my own fault for expecting it when I wasn’t promised it 🙂

Thoughts on the Cover: I personally like this other cover better than the one above (which is the cover the edition I read had). I think this one portrays the story better than the other one. The one above portrays hope for me, and Lina sure did have lots of hope. But the cover here shows more of the harshness and pain, in my opinion. So I like it better 🙂


3 thoughts on “Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

  1. Oh, no! This is a book that I absolutely loved – it worked for me completely and I was caught up in Lina’s experiences. The website for the book really drew me in, especially the video of the author and why she created the book, the personal story behind it, etc. I can’t wait for Ruta’s next book!

  2. Chelsea says:

    While the narrative style doesn’t sound particularly thrilling, I do really, really like the premise of this book. Plus, it’s a side (and geographical area) of WWII that I don’t know much – or anything! – about, which is always a plus! Great review and happy reading!

  3. JESSECA says:

    this was the most amazing book i ever read i will not stop reading it this is my 7th time reading it AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

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