Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

85%

53 Critic Reviews

Though categorized as a young adult book, I highly recommend Between Shades of Gray to readers of all ages who have an interest in war stories and tales of the resilience of human beings during the most arduous of circumstances.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

“Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.” --The Washington Post

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.

Praise for BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY:

“A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch.”--The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant story of love and survival.”--Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls 

* “Beautifully written and deeply felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”--Booklist, Starred Review

A New York Times Bestseller
An International Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2011
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
The iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel
The #1 Book on the Spring 2011 IndieNext List
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
A Booklist Best Book of 2011
A Kirkus Best Book of 2011
2012 IRA Children’s and Young Adults Book Award for Young Adult Fiction
2012 Indies Choice Young Adult Book of the Year
A Carnegie Medal Finalist
A William C. Morris Finalist
 

About Ruta Sepetys

See more books from this Author
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Between Shades of Gray is her first novel.
 
Published March 22, 2011 by Speak. 384 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Travel, War, Children's Books, History. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Between Shades of Gray
All: 53 | Positive: 52 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jan 08 2011

Sepetys’ flowing prose gently carries readers through the crushing tragedy of this tale that needs telling.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Nov 27 2016

A harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Nov 26 2016

A harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jan 03 2011

A harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Linda Sue Park on Apr 08 2011

Apart from a few overly dramatic metaphors, Lina recounts her story with a straightforward clarity that trusts readers to summon images of starvation, disease and death, and grounds them in a reality young adults can understand.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by rileyb on May 31 2013

Important, entertaining, and inspiring, this novel is a must-read for all wishing, not just for an escape from life, but for an experience that may move you to change a life.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Linda Buckley-Archer on Jun 24 2011

Hard to read but even harder to stop reading, there is no doubt into which category this tremendous first novel belongs.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Lattice on May 21 2012

This book is very well written and Lina's pain and emotions are conveyed brilliantly.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Linda Buckley-Archer on Jun 24 2011

The fluid narrative is compelling yet restrained. The horrors of the cattle trucks and the gulag, the cruelty of the Soviet guards, are all there. Minor characters are memorably and vividly drawn, and the first half of the book, in particular, roars along.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Rachel on May 04 2011

You really must read this book, and not just for the history, but for the beautifully well written story that in any context really touches your heart.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Victor Lana on Feb 23 2016

Though categorized as a young adult book, I highly recommend Between Shades of Gray to readers of all ages who have an interest in war stories and tales of the resilience of human beings during the most arduous of circumstances.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Meghan Cox Gurdon on Mar 19 2011

These volumes also give children the opportunity to develop as clear and educated an opinion about communism as they will have already formed about Nazism. And that's something worth having.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Karen Valby on Mar 16 2011

Sepetys’ debut novel may lack the oomph of The Book Thief, but brave Lina is a heroine young and old readers can believe in.

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The Bookbag

Good
Reviewed by Louise Laurie on Apr 01 2011

While the novel itself is good (and thought-provoking) I didn't come away with the impression that it was blow-me-away-with-a-feather, great, I'm afraid.

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Teen Reads

Good
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on Mar 28 2011

The suffering experienced by Lina and her companions is shocking and often difficult to read. But BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is also a profoundly moving and inspiring book, as Lina discovers first her own capacity for courage, then her ability to use art to overcome challenges, and finally her desire for both love and survival.

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Deseret News

Good
Reviewed by Brooke Porter on Apr 07 2012

This young adult novel is raw and fit for more than just teens. A budding love story, tragic deaths, illegal acts of kindness from the enemy and magnificent survival stories will inspire and inform anyone who reads it.

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Jacksonville.com

Good
Reviewed by Christina Kimble on Mar 27 2011

Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, and this moving tale gives a voice to hundreds of thousands of children, mothers, fathers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and students who lost their lives at the hands of Stalin.

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Watermark Books And Cafe

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Bagby on Nov 25 2016

Throughout the book, Septys, grapples with the capacity of the human spirit. One character wonders whether it would be harder to die, or to be the one who survives; another rats out his neighbors, only to change his mind later—and then has to live with the consequences of his actions.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Good
Reviewed by Sunny Solomon on Apr 02 2011

Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel is not to be missed. It’s been published as a young adult novel, but it is a novel for all ages and a story whose telling is long overdue.

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Nashville Scene

Good
Reviewed by FERNANDA MOORE on Oct 06 2011

...Between Shades of Gray may be tough going for a YA audience. It is, nevertheless, an invaluable testament to a ghastly chapter in 20th century history and should become required reading for students of World War II, who deserve to know the story of Stalin's victims as surely as they do those of Hitler.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by FreelanceGirl on Nov 27 2016

This novel is a beautiful depiction of the suffering so many innocent people had to face at the hands of careless leaders. The internal and external conflict of one girl out of so many puts our own luxurious lives into perspective.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by kittylin143 on Mar 26 2016

The author does a great job of describing such an historical event through a teenagers eyes, that I felt at times I was the one in the story.

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Story Snoops

Good
Reviewed by Shannon on Nov 27 2016

Even those who are not fans of historical fiction will appreciate this beautifully written, fast-paced, and important read.

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The Book Smugglers

Above average
on Nov 27 2012

While Between Shades of Gray is a powerful and important story, Sepetys’ debut novel lacks the skill with words and raw emotional resonance that would make it truly, hauntingly unforgettable.

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http://goodbooksandgoodwine.com

Excellent
Reviewed by April on Mar 09 2011

And I know people reading this book will appreciate their own circumstances, which is great. But I think you should also make it not about you. Don’t turn the book into a selfish experience. Instead think about real people, and what they actually went through. Think about THEIR pain.

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The Reading Date

Excellent
on Feb 03 2012

Though the subject matter is difficult, the story is a worthwhile read and educated me on this time in history. The story is very compelling and really puts things into perspective when you look at the problems of your own life.

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The Overflowing Library

Excellent
Reviewed by kirsty on Apr 08 2011

A startling realistic account of life under soviet rule. One of the best books I have read this year and certainly one I will be recommending frequently to ensure the suffering of the people the book is written about is never forgotten. A brave and powerful debut.

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http://blogs.slj.com

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Burns on Dec 19 2011

Between Shades of Gray made me cry, over and over. It also left me wanting to know more; it covers over a year in Lina’s life, but, as is shown in an epilogue, Lina and the other deportees that managed to survive would not return home until the mid 1950s. I want to know more...

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Sarah Says Read

Below average
Reviewed by Sarah on Jan 10 2013

...I’ve read much better books about fictional characters suffering during World War 2. Between Shades of Gray was kind of boring, with very little plot, and I was happy that it was over. SNORE.

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https://rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com

Good
on May 20 2011

I was somewhat bothered by the fact that one of the most obnoxious characters was the only Jew in the group. Given that Lithuanians had an egregious record in terms of their enthusiasm for assisting the Nazis, I thought this was inappropriate. On the whole, however, this is a beautiful and worthwhile story...

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Helen's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Helen on Apr 28 2011

If you want an interesting, well-written, historical fiction book that will teach you about a subject you may not know, this is the book for you!

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Angela's Anxious Life

Good
Reviewed by Angie on Jul 15 2012

I REALLY felt let down by the end. I really was invested in all the characters and wanted to see how their story ended. Meaning I wish I could've seen how they eventually get out of camp. I felt completely let down by the end.

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The Flutterby Room

Good
Reviewed by beckireads on Apr 21 2011

If you’re interested in learning more about the Second World War, and not just about the rise and fall of the Nazi party, then you should definitely give this book a go.

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Lovely Treez Reads

Good
on Aug 20 2011

Between Shades of Gray will make you appreciate your freedom, something which we take for granted. It will also make you realise the power of the human spirit to endure, to survive and to aspire to a better future.

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Reading Rants

Good
on Mar 25 2011

Sepetys’ unflinching portrayal of the work camps and the bravery of the people who survived them will tug at your heart and hurt your head.

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Ivy Book Bindings

Good
Reviewed by Keertana on Feb 20 2013

Even if you don't like historical fiction, even if you don't like young adult, you need to read this. We all, as humans, owe it to humanity and the people who died, survived, and made peace under Stalin's rule to read this book. We really, really do.

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LibrisNotes

Good
on Jul 10 2011

Ruta Sepetys effectively captures the horrors of camp without being overly graphic. She also conveys the despair the Lithuanian deportees experience and the struggle of both Lina and her family to hope in the future.

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The Story Girl

Good
on Mar 22 2011

This story is at times a difficult read because of the tragedy and suffering to which these people were reduced - a tragedy even more difficult because it really happened. However, the beauty of Sepetys' writing and Lina's unconquerable spirit are in the end uplifting.

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Thirst for Fiction

Good
Reviewed by Rhys on Nov 27 2016

Between Shades of Gray is a harrowing, yet hopeful novel. Love and deepest affection have never been so overflowing and powerful, and Sepetys’ flowing, powerful prose makes every show of affection beautiful and every trial of terror a horror.

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https://yareviews.wikispaces.com

Good
on Sep 01 2016

While the subject of the novel tugs at one’s heartstrings, it also serves the purpose of exposing the atrocities of Stalin’s rule. Many author’s focus on the Holocaust, and the plight of those imprisoned by Russia is overlooked.

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https://heatherlo.wordpress.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Heather on Aug 22 2011

I can’t say enough about Between Shades of Gray. This book is absolutely incredible, telling a story that is not told often enough and one that many people probably don’t even know about. I give this book my highest recommendation and I urge you to read it.

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The Housework Can Wait

Good
Reviewed by TheHouseworkCanWait on Nov 26 2012

I think Between Shades of Gray is already on many school reading lists, as it should be. It’s both educational and moving, a fantastic example of both fine writing and important storytelling.

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http://great-imaginations.com

Good
Reviewed by Lyn on Apr 12 2013

Overall, the book was wonderful, and I am thrilled that this book was so highly suggested when I revealed that it was on my shelf, waiting to be read.

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Rally the Readers

Excellent
Reviewed by Ally on Jul 12 2012

I don’t really know what to say. Between Shades of Gray leaves me at a loss for words. And that, my friends, is no easy task. This book was just that good. I can wholeheartedly say that I loved it!

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Reading After Midnight

Excellent
on Nov 27 2016

The characters are so complex and they bring so much into this story...you can only read it between tears and maybe find some colors between so many shades of gray.

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https://theprettybooks.wordpress.com

Excellent
on Aug 09 2011

I haven’t mentioned too much about what I actually thought of the characters, the storyline, the plot, like I would a normal book, because how can I review events that really happened? All I can say is the way Sepetys writes about the events is brilliant.

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Bibliophile Brouhaha

Excellent
Reviewed by Bibliophile Brouhaha on Mar 22 2011

What makes this book special is that it is among the first, perhaps the first, to shed light on a very little known chapter in history. You won't regret reading Lina's story, and by doing so, you will help give voice to those formerly silenced. I highly recommend it.

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A Foodie Biliophile in Wanderlust

Excellent
on Sep 10 2012

This is definitely one of the best historical fictions I have ever read. The world is better for having this book its midst. It's one that should be taught in high school literature and social studies classrooms.

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Silverpen Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Annalise on Aug 31 2012

tender love story; strong, loveable characters; makes readers think; plot is interesting, tragic, and beautiful; themes of courage, love, and the value of life

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Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire

Good
Reviewed by Mindy McGinnis on Aug 24 2012

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is deftly delivered, with enough detail to be harrowing yet never gratuitous. The reader feels the passage of years along with Lina, as she grows up in a work camp. But everyday survived feels like a small victory.

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https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by Anna on Jun 28 2011

Between Shades of Gray was sad and heartbreaking, but at the same time, I couldn’t put it down. I finished this 344-page book in about a day. When I wasn’t reading, the story and the characters were with me...

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https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com

Good
Reviewed by NANCY WAHL on Nov 14 2013

Sepetys tells a beautiful story that needs to be heard and remembered. Let Lina lead you through her tale; you will not regret it, and you will not emerge unchanged.

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http://stackedbooks.org

Excellent
Reviewed by Kelly on Mar 21 2011

Between Shades of Gray brings a horrific period of history to the forefront, imbuing it with emotion, humanity, and hope. This book will not let us forget.

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Reader Rating for Between Shades of Gray
90%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 1753 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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