BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY BY RUTA SEPETYS
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”
― Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray
It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s 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?
This book was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking in such a terribly sad way. It brought to life such a horrible and forgotten travesty in our humanities existence. How is it that this is really the first time I have heard of the genocide that occurred in the Balkans. I mean technically it is not the first time. For someone who studied International Studies in college and even took a class focused on genocide, I know it was brought up and discussed, but not nearly as much time or depth were put into the discussion. The atrocities that occurred to the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are overshadowed by what was happening with Germany, Hitler and the Holocaust.
This book was more than just a story about the deportation of Lithuanians. Sepetys had beautifully incorporated the undying resilience found in these deportees just trying to survive. There was love, hope and even a bit of romance. Although they are facing such terrible and horrific circumstances, it was absolutely brilliant that Sepetys included those breathtaking and lovely moments of pure joy and love. The romance was filled with innocence and in the midst of all the evil was a heart warming element.
Sepetys added such great complexity to her characters. Lina was strong willed, opinionated and feisty despite the situation she finds herself in. She never stops questioning and trying to get answers regardless of the consequences. Much like her mother she learns that in order to survive and be able to go on without a guilty conscious she must help the others around her and I found that so heart warming. You become attached to more than just the main character as the group of characters stick together and endure together.
Overall I thought the book was absolutely stunning. It added light to a unknown situation that affected many. It did not shy away from the gruesome events that took place. It was so real and extremely emotional, but yet gripping and has you rooting for Lina and her family. It shows that even in moments of completely tragedy there is light to be found.