Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review and Book Club Report: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Book: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ★
For: Book Club
From: I won this one a long time ago from another blog

This book tells the story of the Lithuain people that Stalin so ruthlessly shipped out of their country during Russia's invasion of this area during WWII. It's a story that not many people are familiar with, all the attention going to what happened to the Jewish people. But these people in Lithuanian, and other nearby countries where taken from their homes simply for the fact that they were thought to be not so friendly to Stalin and his policies. They were carted to Siberia and forced to work in labor camps for years, totally forgotten by the world.

It's really quite a sad event in history.

This story follows a young teenage girl as her family is shipped away. They spent weeks crammed into a cattle train, then sold, then working in a camp for awhile before their final distination of the North Pole. Here, they barely survived with hardly any food or shelter and having to keep working hard at their various labors.

It's one of those stories where you wonder how anyone ever survived something like what you are reading. It seems impossible. But so many did.

I found it to be quite a hard one to read. At the end of nearly every chapter I had to close the book and just breathe for bit, before I could continue on. But then continue on I did, because it only took a couple of sittings to read the book.

So easy to read and hard to read!

I appreciated that there was a bit of humor thrown in here and there, and even a little romance. I appreciated the fight and the will to survive that was shown by this girl and her brother and friends. It's amazing and inspirational.

Bottom line: Wonderful, beautiful and sad book!

Other Reviews:

The book’s sparse prose and quiet message of hope and endurance moved me in unexpected and unimagined ways. From Book Harbinger

I think the more we try to uncover the past, terrible though it may be, the more we try to not whitewash these incidents, the more we are able to move forward, and hopefully change for the better. From Good Books and Good Wine

From the very first sentence, this book grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go. From Logan E. Turner

All in all, Ruta Sepetys has written a deep, evocative, and powerful tale with her debut. From Ivy Book Bindings

What the Book Club Thought:
  • Fascinating to see the will to live in the teenager age group. Would we be like that? Now? As teenagers? 
  • The ending was too abrupt and too quickly resolved. We wanted more detail in that ending!
  • We enjoyed the flashbacks that helped us to get to know her father and her life before.
  • Stalin... scary scary dude. We don't like him. And yet, we don't know very much about him either. 
  • There was an interesting discussion about our feelings towards certain groups, and certain individuals. We hope to not categorize people as "bad" and yet, we talked about how nothing "bad" like this has really happened to us, and if it were to, would it be so easy to not lump individuals into a group and dislike them all? Know what I mean? 
  • It made us think about the Germans and how they live with a stigma and how they don't want to seem too patriotic because of how it might look to others. It made us think about the people, any sort of people, who had to pretend to go along with something bad in order to survive. 
  • Which then made us ponder the guard in this book who ended up playing a significant role in the survival of our main character. And what would we do if we were put in his position?
Wow, lots to ponder about with this one! If you haven't read it yet, do it.


  1. This sounds great Suey, I had no idea of the plotline even though I've seen the book around quite a lot, and heard some good things. I love book group discussions, it's nice to get everyone's insights!

  2. This book is amazing... I loved it so much. Very sad though.

  3. This does sound like a tough read! Although I can see where the cover might fit, I would have expected something happier based on cover alone.

  4. This is one book that has been on my to-read list for some time. I must make time for it.

  5. I picked this book up on a reduced price--I haven't read it yet. I think I'll wait on it a bit though after reading your review.

  6. I loved learning more about Lithuanian through this book. I was sad, but really good.

  7. Wonderful review. I especially like your comment about Lina's writing style. I love when an author can so concisely express powerful emotions in "as few words as possible. I cannot wait to experience this book for myself.

    Marlene Detierro (Indianapolis Local SEO)



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