Book Review: “Between Shades of Grey”
By Ruta Sepetys
Reviewed by Danielle Benedetti, 18
The year is 1941 and World War II is raging in Lithuania, where 15-year-old Lina lives. It isn’t long before Soviet officers send Lina, her brother, and her mother through the Arctic Circle and into a Siberian work camp. Despite the freezing temperatures, cruel working conditions, and heartless officers, Lina manages to record her hardships in art and prose so that one day her story might be shared with the people and the world she had to leave behind.
I think knowing nothing about Lithuania’s conditions in WWII was the best way for me to read this book. It allowed Lina’s experiences to always intrigue me, despite the fact that most of her hardships are shocking, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking. The intensity of Lina’s surroundings becomes even more powerful because of her writing style—she uses as few words as possible, creating an emotional but beautiful tone that highlights just how dreary her new surroundings are. She also includes short snippets about the time before her family was imprisoned, and each excerpt shows just how quickly the war changed Lina’s everyday life and how terrible her current situation is compared to the loving but tense family life she had before. It was largely thanks to these excerpts, and other stories of the past, that I understood the characters' quirks and personalities. Every so often they seemed a bit monotonous, though their feelings of despair were completely understandable.
Between Shades of Gray is an incredibly powerful, haunting but ultimately beautiful and hopeful historical fiction story that’s worth every tear that may be shed over it.
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