Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Product Details

  • Print Length: 355 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0399254129
  • Publisher: Speak; 1 edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004H4XCTQ
  • Genre:  Young Adult, Historical


Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.

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 her 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?

Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

My Review:

I remember being in 8th grade and going to my school library.  I was immediately drawn to the book, “The Diary of Anne Frank” because I thought it was fascinating how a diary could be  made into a book.  Yes, I knew absolutely nothing about the book nor Anne Frank and was immediately drawn into the life and struggles of Anne’s life.  This book, “Between Shades of Gray” is this generations “The Diary of Anne Frank”.

One word.  Unforgettable.  This is a story that I read in 2 days.  Some of the scenes are forever etched in my heart and mind.  Seriously.  There are very few books that leave that huge of an impact on my life and “Shade of Gray” is one of them.  While this is a YA book, as an adult I could appreciate the details and really connected with Lina, a brave and beautiful soul that draws what she sees and feels.  Trying to stay strong for her mother and brother, her sole focus is to reunite with her father, who is at a concentration camp away from their work camp.

As the Soviet’s NKVD came into homes to take away families and separate families, kill them, resume their identities and homes, the world was transfixed on the evil Hitler was doing.  Under Stalin’s regime, mass genocide was happening to the Baltic people.  Ruta brings the issues and shares the horror these families faced.  I was absolutely captivated and there were many moments I just had to put the book down and grieve.  I cried, I laughed, and my heart ached for Lina and the others who meet Lina along the way.

Through Lina’s bravery and perseverance, she documents what she witnesses and experiences as a testament to what they experienced.  While Lina and those around her struggle to survive, this book shows that the heart and spirit of someone cannot be imprisoned.

As a parent, there are many wonderful teaching opportunities for our children.  It is a book that adults and children alike can read and learn about war, stereotypes/discrimination, socialism, and the human spirit.  Above all, it is a book that needs to be read as a reminder of what can happen and to give voice to the millions who died during Stalin’s regime.

I highly recommend this book and is a personal favorite of mine!  Everyone should read this book…that is how great it is written and the message is something we all need to hear and learn from.

Memorable Quotes:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean.  I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we’d get a little closer.”

“Mother told me to feel sorry for the person, that they had been pushed over the edge of their identity.”

“I scanned the group. Faces spoke to their future. I saw courage, anger, fear, and confusion. Others were hopeless. They had already given up. Which was I?”

*These are just a few…there are so many!! I just don’t want to give too much away and take from your reading experience.  I just hope with reading some of these quotes that it will stir your heart to read this book.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Michigan, Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. The nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia disappeared from maps in 1941 and did not reappear until 1990. As this is a story seldom told, Ruta wanted to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives during Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic region. Ruta lives with her family in Tennessee. Between Shades of Gray is her first novel.

Visit the Author:




                        Read An Excerpt of “Shades of Gray”


**Confusing one book for another, something quite wonderful has happened!!  People are buying this book and learning and loving “Between Shades of Gray”!  Click here for the article.