Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Between Shades of Gray” as Want to Read:
Between Shades of Gray
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Between Shades of Gray

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  55,081 ratings  ·  9,055 reviews

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.

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2011 by Penguin (first published 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Between Shades of Gray, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Darth Sammy The antagonist was a mixture. In some parts it was the NKVD and confusingly in some other parts, it was herself. Sometimes ir was Andrius briefly, and…moreThe antagonist was a mixture. In some parts it was the NKVD and confusingly in some other parts, it was herself. Sometimes ir was Andrius briefly, and a little more often the old bald man who was constantly a pessimist. This is a good question, but the answer is very clouded.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sep 08, 2011 Lora rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of novels set during WWII
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

As soon as I saw this video, I knew I had to read this novel. Between Shades of Gray isn't the type of book I'd normally read, but I'm extremely glad that I decided to read it.

Lina is a very strong and courageous character. Despite the situation Lina is placed in at the young age of fifteen, she audaciously chooses to write about the terrible cruelties the Soviets are doing to those around her as well as her family and herself. Lina is an artist, and she uses this talent
Maggie Stiefvater
This is not a pretty book.

Even though I found this novel exceptionally well-written, it was not a pleasure to read. It’s about Lithuanians displaced to Siberian work camps during World War II. It was pretty unflinchingly brutal, but here’s why I think you ought to read it:

1. It is a side of World War II that you might not have seen before. I certainly hadn’t heard these stories of displaced Europeans, and I have to say, having been to Lithuania on tour last year, it made so much of what they sai
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Exactly a year before, the Soviets have begun moving troops over the borders into the country. Then, in August, Lithuania was officially annexed into the Soviet Union. When I complained at the dinner table, Papa yelled at me and told me to never, ever say anything derogatory about the Soviets. He sent me to my room. I didn’t say anything out loud after that. But I thought about it a lot.

Despite her father’s caution, 15-year-old Lena Vilkas, her 10-year-old brother Jonas and their mother Elena ar
'Now my heart sank into my stomach where the bile began to chew it.'

Step on my heart, cut it wide open, rub it with salt and feed it to the sharks.. Or just make me read this book, because this is how it feels like reading this story.

How can I call “wonderful” a book full of so many horrors?
...But I will, because it really is, and what pains me the most is that it's all true, that this is a really tiny part of the darkest piece of our history as human beings.
You thought this was repugnant?!
Emily May

Um... so I'm a bit torn on this one but I'm going to rate it 3.5 stars. I think what made it worse was all the bloody hype (like with Matched) that made me think this was going to blow my mind and it kind of just, well, didn't.

It was an interesting history lesson. My knowledge of Soviet activities was previously more political than social and anything I did know of the more personal impact on people's lives was what I'd gained from German museums telling the story of the Berlin wall. It's true
Let me justify my seemingly harsh rating. First things first, let me provide you with some (probably not necessitated) background into my interest in this book: I am an avid studier of Lithuanian history. I have rigorously researched this time period prior to this book's creation, thus I was absolutely overjoyed when I got wind of its publishing. It's about time that a "young adult" book chronicled the heinous acts of human evil that the Soviet Union committed against the Baltic peoples.

This bo
I'll admit it. I was sort of afraid to read this book. Well.... not really afraid, but just watching the video about the book had me bawling, and I was afraid to be in that set of mind again. I don't know about you, but books can tend to evoke strong emotions with me that will last for days... weeks, months even.

I wish I hadn't waited for so long. Unfortunately I don't think my review will do this novel justice.

I don't want to say that this book wasn't heartbreaking or that watching the disturbi
Audrey  *Ebook and Romance Lover*
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.”

When I read this quote my reaction was this:


What can I say? I am still recovering from this book. I mean literally recovering. It touched me in a way that Made me cry more than ever, made me feel mad, made me feel disgusted, and made me realize the horrors that these people had to go through. It made me realize what they had to suffer because they helped people or they were well educate
Well done, Ruta Sepetys! A great book. Heartbreaking, but nicely written.
This book is a novel, but is actually based on history, during WWII. this story is written from the perspective of a teenager named Lina. she and her family are taken from their home in Lithuania by the Soviets. This story tracks the next year plus of all hardships they go through. The labor camps, the illnesses that struck, the deaths of fellow Lithuanians, cruel degrading treatment and more.
If you are looking for a happ
Such a small book with such an astounding story inside.

I can't believe I always used to say that historic fiction is boring – I think I've just read the wrong books. This novel had such a powerful message and together with its rich and vivid characters, it made even the bleakest setting shine. Between Shades of Gray has such a sad and infuriating background – telling the story of a Lithuanian family captured and deported to Siberia by the Soviets in the early 1940s – but its prose and its heroi
Ruta Sepetys wrote a courageous story that has been overlooked for quite some time. I can only imagine how hard it is to write with such frankness but to convey through the grimness that there is love and hope, no matter how small it is; it's still there.

Lina is our protagonist who lives in Lithuania in the 1940's and one night the NKVD (widely known later as the KGB) bust through her family's home and take her mom, little brother, and herself to an unknown location. Her father has been taken ea
I read this book everywhere. In the school cafeteria and on the school's tiled hallway floors, at the tennis courts, during an academic examination, and alone in my room. I couldn't put it down. I didn't want to put it down, either. I felt like I was carrying a small piece of something real, something bigger than just the words and the story contained inside the casing of the book. I felt like I was holding history, imbued with human emotion.

Ruta Sepetys's descriptions and characterizations are
Summer the bummer
"Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

When was the last time you heard of those small Baltic countries beside Russia? You know, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia? Most don’t even know these countries exist. Is anyone aware of the horrors they had to endure at the hands of the Soviets, how they were brutally forced out of their homes and forced into cramped, disease-ridden labor camps all over the USSR? Maybe, but thanks to the media, it is made out to be a seemingly insignifican
Between Shades of Gray is the type of novel you need to mentally prepare yourself to read. If you don't, you'll probably find yourself like me, choking up within the first few pages itself. Yet, as the story wears on, you learn to breathe again and slowly, gently, carefully, Sepetys weaves this heart-breaking tale of loss, love, and hope.

What makes Between Shades of Gray such a phenomenal read is the mere fact that it is based off of truth. Sepetys has put an immense amount of research into her
Between Shades of Gray is a very important story. It's a story that needs to be told. These people and what they lost needs to be remembered.

I wasn't entirely sure how to rate this. While being a very important book, one that I did connect with emotionally, it didn't quite hit me the same way other books set during World War 2 have. During the official book trailer the author jokes about the original book being so dark that it required a lot of revisions, that originally it was even darker than
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

I did not look good after I finished 'Between shades of gray'. My nose could have passed as the red nosed reindeer. It had become an awful shade of red from the tears. Similar to my close friend, I’m frankly not a big fan of books that will give me a headache from the crying that I have to withstand, coincidentally one my favourite genre is historical-fiction and history has a lot of grieve. Too much. I hate to cry and I prefer to sit silently and concentrate on a blank w
Stacia (the 2010 club)
WOW. You know a book is phenomenal when you're even sobbing at the author's notes after the epilogue.

I WILL review this book, but I'm not sure just how to do it yet. My emotions are off the charts. I have not cried this hard since Jellicoe.
I just wanted to write a few words on this review now. I will write more later but I have to get some of my feelings out on this book now. This book is amazing. The thing that is most amazing to me is that I have never heard this story. These people were so terrified about what happened to them that to this day they still have a hard time speaking about it. Maybe that is why the story is so unknown to many people. I cried for the Lithuanian people. Not because of what they went though but becau ...more
Book quote: During our standoffs with the NKVD, I learned to cling to my rusted dreams. I fell into hope and allowed myself to wish from the deepest part of my heart.

Brilliant and Unforgettable

The cost of reserving Between Shades of Gray from my library = $0.50
The retail price of Between Shades of Gray after using a Border’s coupon because yes I must now own this book = $9.40
The value of experiencing this beautiful and harrowing story of survival and hope = Priceless

About the book: Josef Stalin
Between Shades of Gray is a stunning, unforgettable story that I really think should be on every readers must-read list

It is the sort of book I sometimes think I have to psych myself up to read: because it looks intense and powerful and you know it's going to tug your heart strings.

HOWEVER, it's not as daunting as you might think: despite the horror you know is about to be unleashed, it's quite effortless to read due to some gorgeous prose. It's a lovely blend of lyrical writing, teen voice an
Aj the Ravenous Reader

Tears...tears...raw, honest, helpless tears kept streaming down my face while I was reading this. I didn't even bother to prevent them because it was useless anyway. Reading this book was a very humbling experience and I admire the author for her courage in writing this eye opening historical novel.

The writing style is so sincere and every word shot me to my very core. Reading the book was like reading the diary of an actual 15 year old girl who suffered the dark and evil reign of the USSR in t
A few weeks ago my mom and I attended a fascinating lecture featuring a woman who was six years old when she was liberated from Auschwitz. So she’s talking about life in the camps, and how tremendously and hideously fucked up everything was, and how when the Soviet army showed up to free everyon—whoa.

Whoa, wait.

The Soviets were freeing people from German death camps at the same time that they were systematically rounding up millions of Lithuanians and Latvian and Estonians and transporting them
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

"We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean."

I feel like I've been stripped from all the humanity I'd ever had (If I had any). I feel like ripping my hair out, I feel like screaming into my pillow. I feel unsettled. I feel naked. That's how raw this novel was. So raw it made me feel stinging clean to the bone in nakedness. And, if it were my choice, I'd do this all over again because Between Shades of Gray was so, so worth it.

It's the ye
"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth ? That morning, my brother's life was worth a pocket watch."

The mention of the word 'Lithuania' sent my mind rummaging through the wily terrains of my memory and finally from a dilapidated and undermined corner, an image of a page from my Class 10 History Textbook materialized. You see, it was quite the last page of that chapter, a time by which, I was clearly exhausted from the multitude of facts that had been unceremoniously dumped on me an
"Levaram-me em camisa de noite.
Recordando agora como tudo se passou, percebo que os sinais estavam todos lá: as fotografias de família queimadas na chaminé, a minha mãe cosendo as nossas pratas e jóias mais valiosas ao forro do casaco até altas horas, todas as vezes em que o meu pai não voltou para casa logo após o trabalho.
Jonas, o meu irmão mais novo, fazia perguntas. Eu também, mas talvez me tenha recusado a ler os indícios.
Só mais tarde entendi que os meus pais planeavam a nossa fuga.
Aly (Fantasy4eva)
"I look for characters that may not be classically beautiful, but have a beautiful capacity to love." - Ruta Sepetys

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY centres around a story, in which the Baltic countries of: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania that were wiped of the map. A genocide on such a scale that the people were close to forgotten, nearly. You see, Stalin was sneaky in how he went about things. People were taken without warning. They had no time to tell loved ones where they were being taken and very few m
WARNING: This is a hard book to put down once you start it.

It is difficult to imagine during Stalin's "reign of terror" that more than twenty million people, a third of the population of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were annihilated!

This book tells the story of fifteen year old Lina and her family and their struggle for survival after being taken from their home in 1941 Lithuania and thrown into cattle cars.

(view spoiler)

I never knew about what Lithuanians endured under Stalin until I read this book. That many who read this book will say something like that is one of the great merits of this book. That Ruta Sepetys was able to convert that historical truth into a beautiful, non-sentimental story told by a young, courageous woman is even greater merit. I wish there were more books like this - books not afraid to be real in a way that fosters hope.
4.5 stars - Spoilers

Really loved this. Everything about it was done well - the writing, the characters, the story, the rich history, and the little bit of romance.

-What's what: Set in WW2. Lina (a Lithuanian girl) and her family are forced out of their home by Soviet Officers and sent on a long, gruesome journey to Siberia, there they are forced to work in a camp.

-Lina was a fairly engaging character, even though she was rather judgemental and bitchy and difficult to like at times it was easy to
Ash Wednesday
"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.

I read this on paperback and that was on page 5.

You kinda get the sense that your patronus will be getting a workout with this book early on.

But for a young-adult book chronicling a Lithuanian family's journey under Stalin's deportation of the Baltic States in the 1940s, this went down rather smoothly. Between S
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)
  • My Family for the War
  • The Queen of Water
  • The Berlin Boxing Club
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)
  • Jefferson's Sons
  • Annexed
  • Shadow on the Mountain
  • Okay for Now
  • Revolution
  • Under the Mesquite
  • Never Fall Down
  • Queen of Hearts
  • Crossing Stones
  • The War within These Walls
  • Forge (Seeds of America, #2)
  • The Trouble with May Amelia (May Amelia, #2)
  • Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Her award-winning debut novel, "Between Shades of Gray" was inspired by her family's history in Lithuania and is published in 45 countries. Her second novel, "Out of the Easy" is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. A historical tale of secrets and lies, "Out of the Easy" is a haunting remi ...more
More about Ruta Sepetys...
Out of the Easy Untitled Una stanza piena di sogni (Garzanti Narratori) Entre tonos de gris (Versión Hispanoamericana) (El día siguiente) Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview

Share This Book

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.” 412 likes
“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.” 407 likes
More quotes…