Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously - and at great risk - documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages 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, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Between Shades of Gray has been on my to-read list for a while now. World War II is just such a horrific yet fascinating time period to me. Hearing the stories of what people went through can be so heartbreaking yet moving at the same time. Those little threads of hope intertwined in all that horror is so incredible to me. Yet, while I know so much about Hitler and the Germany side of the war--I only knew tiny bits and pieces of what Stalin did from history class. Between Shades of Gray was a moving story--one that I'm so glad I got to experience.

It was all too easy for me to step into Lina's shoes. Being the same age as Lina, I could really relate to her narration. The writing itself was beautiful and oh-so poignant. Imagine being fifteen-years-old, and having your family being ripped out of their home, for absolutely nothing. Being called a criminal, forced to work at camps, for no reason. I thought the way Lina coped was realistic and believable. The waves of anger, the reiteration of hope. The love she had for her little brother, and the focus of family was so beautiful to me. Jonas was such a little cutie! I felt like Lina held onto hope for her brother.

The horrors throughout the book were real, I want to burst into tears when I think that this stuff actually happened.

I. loved. Andrius. 
That's all I'm going to say on that topic.
Moving on...

I only had one issue with this story overall. And that was the dialogue. The words were beautiful, but sometimes it just didn't sound like things people would actually say. I found this to be particularly true about the mother's dialogue. It just seems like Sepetys needed a way to rattle off facts at some points. Other times the language was beautiful, but it was those times where it just felt stiff and unrealistic to me. 

I loved how much depth was shown in this story, how Sepetys showed so many different sides with her characters. The separated families, the young children, the weak being forced to work. But she didn't only show the victims. There's NKVD officer, Nikolai Kretzsky, who's just a boy himself. He's tortured with guilt, and while it doesn't seem that way at first, as the book progresses, you find this Russian soldier going out of his way to help the Lithuanians. Also, I loved the fact that love still found its way and blossomed in these camps.

The ending is so incredibly moving.

It's truly amazing what Ruta Sepetys did here. The reason most people don't know too much about the Stalin and the soviet side was because victims stories weren't allowed to be told. They'd be imprisoned if they even mentioned the horrors that they went through. So the fact that these people were given a voice is incredible. Within these pages is a story I will never forget.
I was debating as I was reading whether this would be a four star or a five star for me. Up until the last fifty pages, I thought it was going to be four. But the ending truly moved me. I believe that this is a book everyone should read, and therefore I have to give it five stars.