Friday, 24 June 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback
Published: 7th April 2011
Number of Pages: 352
Book: Bought
Genre: True-To-Life Fiction, Historical, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Mil Violence
No Alcohol, Drug References

Synopsis From Blurb:
That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch...
One night fifteen-year-old Lin, her mother and younger brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away.  They are being deported to Siberia.
An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun.  Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or friends again.  But she refuses to give up hope.
Lina hopes for her family.
For her country.
For her future.
For love – first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose...
Will hope keep Lina alive?
Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors.
I finished this book and just sat there for around ten minutes, not entirely sure what to do with myself.  Emotionally, this is such a powerful story that it actually borders on overwhelming.  All the way through, feelings swamped me, battling with one another in my mind, each trying to be the most potent.  Love.  Hate.  Bravery.  Fear.  Happiness.  Despair.  Horror.  Beauty. Giving up.  Hope.  So strong that at times I almost felt like I was drowning in them.  And I loved every single moment.
Just as many people were during the Purges of Stalin’s reign, Lina, her mother and younger brother, Jonas, are taken from their home one night by the Soviet guards and thrust into cattle carts.  Lina doesn’t even know why.  And yet, her and her family are sent to a labour camp in Siberia.  Labour camps were many people are worked to death...
Lina... wow.  She was such an amazing protagonist.  Strong, brave, full of love and hope.  As an artist, she was constantly drawing on whatever she could get her hands on.  At the gulag (labour camp), speaking your mind means certain death.  So Lina speaks through her art.  And hopes no one there ever finds it...  Over the book, I completely fell in love with this girl.  She was so strong.  One of those characters you are just desperate everything turns out alright for.  And I did find myself hoping she’d be ok, that she’d get out alive.
All the other characters were equally amazing.  Her mother, Elena, burning so brightly with love and life, so smart and willing to do anything for her children.  Lina’s brother, Jonas, who must have only been nine or ten at the beginning of the story, who had to mature so much, so fast.  It actually broke my heart to see on so young stripped of their childhood.  Her father, who I never actually ‘met’, but saw through flashbacks and who I came to love too.  Andrius, strong and good; I loved him to bits.  And all the other members of the camp, who were only referred to as ‘the bald man’ or ‘the grouchy woman’, etc.  I never knew their names, and yet I knew them, their personalities.  How Ruta Sepetys managed I have no idea, but she did, and it was amazing.
One of the NKVD guards, Kretzsky, had a distinct personality.  He was by no means an angel, but he wasn’t as much of a monster as the rest.  Ruta let us have glimpses of the human beneath the hard exterior, allowing a brief look at the boy who knows what he’s doing is wrong but doesn’t know how to stop.  One again, I know not how she did it, but did it she did.
Somehow she created a book so horrible at times I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry for the characters, and yet so beautiful I want to read it over and over.  It was the reality that made this book so special.  Based on eyewitness accounts, I cringe at the thought of this truly happening to someone in real life. 
Between Shades of Gray shows both the worst and best sides of humanity, revealing the horror and beauty that exist in the worst situations.  Always have hope.  That’s what I learnt from Lina.  It can always be worse.
So thank you, Ruta Septeys, for such an amazing book that is now firmly one of my favourites.

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading


Larissa said...

I loved this book too! It was so emotional and such a quick read for me I couldn't believe it was already over! I adored if I stay as well, have you read where she went yet?

M said...

Great review. I loved the trailer for this book. I'll have to get reading :)