Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray is a heart wrenching novel about a fifteen year old Lithuanian girl, Lina Vilkas, and her journey after the Soviet police unexpectedly take her and her family from everything they once knew. The story is written from Lina’s point of view as she writes to the reader about living in prison camp through hunger, illness and fear and how she still is able to find a way to stay hopeful. Separated from her father who was placed in a prison as a criminal, it is Lina’s job to help take care of her younger brother and mother as their health starts deteriorating in the wicked living conditions of the camp. Lina describes the NKVD with its heartless and terrifyingly cruel actions towards every human in the camp, treating them like pigs. Written by Ruta Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee she tells this story as way to remember those who lost their lives during Stalin’s takeover of the Baltic region.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone. I have never been drawn to pick up a book about war before, but after reading this one I am looking forward to picking up another. I loved the way the book was written from Lina’s point of view and in letter format. The novel was easy to follow with short chapters and simple vocabulary; new terms and words are presented as Lina talks about the Soviet generals. They speak to her in Russian, exposing the reader to some of their words along with Lina as she tries her best to learn their language. Throughout Lina’s entries, there are sections in italicized font, presenting flashbacks of her life before she is taken from her home in Lithuania to Siberia and establishes the apparent contrast between the two. As the story continues, a new relationship between Lina and Andrius, a boy she went to school with but never dared speak to, flourishes and then dwindles as the plot twists unexpectedly. The reader feels Lina’s pain as change occurs and new problems arise for the Vilkas family. This is a great read for anyone and is such an simple way to learn a little bit of what life was like during such an important yet horrifying part of history. The emotion felt throughout this book ranges drastically and makes the reader feel as if he or she is right there next to Lina, experiencing the same thrilling story.

Ava LaRue

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