4.5 stars to Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published January 10, 2014 by katheryn13

That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch . . .

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young 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 her 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’m not sure how to write this review. I only finished the book a couple hours ago but it’s planted itself in my mind like a rock that doesn’t want to budge.

Yes, I know I’m terrible at poetry and analogies. So sue me.

Between Shades of Gray has to be one of the most depressingly sad books I’ve ever read. And I’ve read John Green’s books. So that’s saying something.

Now I know why I’d avoided this for so long. I was recommended it once and when I saw it in the library I thought, oh why not? Why not indeed!

The description was phenomenal, and the horrifying living conditions that these poor people had to endure made me feel like I was watching them all, a birds eye view. Because it’s based on  real events from survivors and family members, this made it twice has hard to read. Sure, the chapters were short and the writing flowed well so I didn’t find it difficult in that sense, but understanding that these people were treated like animals, spat on and kicked and made to live like slaves, was just too much for me.

And I’m supposedly part Russian, so this made me mad. Really mad. How could they do that?

But yes, I know these were different times, and most of Europe suffered because of high rulers who got out of control.

Lina’s journey is powerful, heartbreaking and at the same time, uplifting. To know that even with her family and friends dying around her, she is still determined to keep on living, to make it home, however long it may take. This made me want to keep reading. The strength and the positivity.

The illnesses kinda grossed me out though, and how obviously real it all was. It made me want to reach into the book and save them all. Knowing this actually happened…well, it’s just so sad. Yknow?

This was powerful, for sure, and I hope others find it to be the same.


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