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If this book doesn't become banned, I'll be sorely disappointed in the self-appointed safety-bubble police. This is a perfect book to burst that bubble and I'm proud to have read it. This book deserves to be on the shelf of every school in the world. It is an important story that is largely unknown.
I will not give anything away in this story as it is important to follow Lina in her heroic and harrowing tale. Her fight for life, just living and breathing is heroic within the conditions that presented itself. The story is often paralleled by her memories of a better time which also contrast to the horror the family, Lina, Jona her brother, and her mother Elena, are experiencing. The horror is made much darker by that comparison. It also provided Lina something else to concentrate on other than hunger and toil. The darkness wasn't surprising to me as I also realized what I was getting into by the first chapter.
"Twenty minutes," the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.
There is one thing I will warn you. You will need some tissues by the end of this book. *shakes fist* Oh, I hate crying and I hate it even more so when I'm trying to keep my sinuses from closing up on me and looking like I was punched in the face. So, don't say I didn't warn you when you start blubbering like a baby. At least you weren't the only one to do that. *sniff*
I recommend this book to everyone. It is YA, but written simply and well. Younger YA audiences could easily read this, but for concerned parents know there is violence and rape by coercion. It is a book describing atrocities that occurred, but isn't any worse than is presented in the media today. I would suggest to those with young kids to read it first and then decide. It is a book I think parents should read anyway.
2 member(s) found this review helpful.
I won Between Shades of Gray on the Goodreads First reads contest.
Shades of Gray is a wonderful and moving first novel by Ruta Sepetys. Set in 1941, prior to the beginning of World War II, Between Shades of Gray is about the life of a young girl and her family.
We meet Lina, her mother and her brother as they are being taken from their home in Lithuania. Lina is unsure as to what is going on, one day she is planning to attend a prestigious art school and the next she is on a train. We follow Lina and her family as they journey into Siberia to a camp where they are forced to survive at all costs. They meet friends and foes on their journey of survival. Throughout it all, Lina struggles to document their story through her artwork.
I really enjoyed Lina's story, as well as how the author portrayed her. Lina became special to me and I found myself unwilling to put the book down. I knew very little about this time period and am now planning to read more about it. As children we learn so much about the evilness of Hitler but so little about Stalin (who is a truly horrible person). I recommend this book to everyone, as this is a piece of history that is all but forgotten.
1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Incorporating true accounts and experiences from survivors, this fiction novel follows one girl, fifteen-year-old Lina, and her mother and younger brother through the aftermath of the Non-Agression Pact and Stalin's plans.
It's a frightening story. With the NKVD guard watching, the transported Lithuanians were sentenced to work on a kolkhoz, a working farm, and sentenced for ten years and longer. Farming for beets, digging holes, and only rationed 300 grams of bread per day, Lina and her family struggled to survive. There is no medicine and no warmth during the cold Russian winters at their gulag. Prisoners are starved, humiliated, and die.
Lina's artwork was always startlingly realistic for her age. As several prisoners did based on true accounts that Sepetys gathered during her research, they documented tragedies through writing, drawing, and wood carvings. Throughout Lina's "sentence" in the camps, she tries to draw as much as she can, atrocities forever etched on the scraps of paper she can find.
Fearful for what may happen, though, should they be caught, this evidence was destroyed or buried in the ground and never spoken about. Even after they were released years later, survivors were still afraid of being charged with another crime and returning back to the prisons, so they kept their stories buried.
This is probably one of the best Young Adult books I've ever read. It's an intense and tough subject matter of unspoken history, and the writing is both vividly descriptive and heart-wrenching, but also maintains the authenticity that this is told from a teenager's point of view. Sections that struck me the hardest at times were those that recognized that even in the depths of sadness, there were moments of hope and love.