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  ·  Rating Details ·  85,234 Ratings  ·  12,830 Reviews
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, ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books
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

Maggie The antagonist doesn't have to be a person. It is the fact that Lina and her family were captured and they need to survive in this situation.
Geraldine Yes, no problem. That is the order in which I read the two books.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Maggie Stiefvater
Jul 04, 2011 Maggie Stiefvater rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2011 Lora rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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?!
Jillian (bookishandnerdy)
These writings may shock or horrify you, but that is not my intention. It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar stir your deepest well of human compassion. I hope they prompt you to do something, to tell someone. Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil is never allowed to repeat itself.

So I read this last night, and I went to work this morning. I was so deeply affected by this story, and my mind kept drifting back to Lina and Jonas and the countless real victims of the Baltic
Angela M
Feb 04, 2016 Angela M rated it it was amazing
I was so taken by the story of Lina and her family and all of the others that came to life here as they were deported from their homes in Lithuania, by Stalin's Russians to a work camp in Siberia. It's a devastatingly sad story of fictional characters but what makes it even more heartbreaking is that this story reflects a true story of a genocide that took the lives of over 20 million people . I am especially saddened by the fact that I knew pretty much nothing about it and I am grateful to the ...more
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
Jul 09, 2016 Elana rated it it was ok
(Edit, July 9, 2016: I was a pretentious 16-year-old when I wrote this review, lol. I'm 21 now and I'll be going back to edit it periodically.)

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 abo
Jun 15, 2015 Jamie rated it it was amazing
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.

much is known about Hitler's
Hailey (HailsHeartsNyc)
What a powerfully poignant story. Really unexpected and unique, but so so important. Video review to come!
Feb 14, 2016 grace rated it it was amazing
Finished this in a couple sittings. What a blow to the heart. So beautiful, devastating, and important.
Jan 20, 2016 Tabetha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating 4.5 Review:

"'NKVD officers are walking by the train with rifles,' I said. 'There are some men in dark suits looking at the train cars.'
We felt a jolt and the train began to move.
'There's luggage everywhere,' I said. 'And lots of food on the platform.' People groaned. The station looked eerie, desolate, frozen with only remnants of the chaos that had taken place. There were single shoes strewn about, a cane, a woman's purse lying open, and an orphaned teddy bear...'There's a priest. He's
Yaz *The Reading Girl*
“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
Powerful heart wrenching story of Lithuanians sent to prison camp during WWII

I don't know how I missed this one when it first came out. I am glad to have "found" it late! I simply loved this book and am deeply moved -- solid 5 star read.

There are many reviews that summarize the plot nicely, so I am not going to attempt that here!

What I Liked
* It was important to learn about this space in history where the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians were rounded up by the Russians and sent to Siberian p
Jan 26, 2016 Dem rated it it was amazing
Wow! what a great read. This is a story very simply told about a Lithuanian Family sent to the Soviet work camps during the time of Stalin and the second world war. The horrors of what this family and so many ordinary families endured during the reign of Stalin is shocking and I am glad to be shocked as I think every reader should read a book like this as it is an education in so many ways.
Although Shades of Gray is about a fictional family the story is the truth of what happened to many innocen
Feb 09, 2016 Phrynne rated it really liked it
This is an extraordinary book and I am so pleased to have read it. It deals with a subject I knew very little about, it has no introduction and it has the tiniest of conclusions. The bulk of the book is about human endurance in unbearable conditions and it is amazing. Surprisingly, despite the sadness of the topic, there are many uplifting moments and it is very hard to put the book down. I now have to go find out more about this horrific time in our history which I am sure is was what the autho ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Kristi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Aug 09, 2015 emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I feel like my heart has been ripped from my chest, stepped on, then was educated on a subject that has somehow escaped every history class that I have ever taken.

First off, this was beautifully written. I watch a lot of stand up comedy and one of the most important things about a comedy set is delivery; how the joke is said, the timing, the inflections, etc. This is such a verbal thing that I have never thought of delivery in terms of writing but Sepetys has great delivery. I mean that she kno
Aug 22, 2016 Madelyn rated it it was ok
Oookay. Maybe I'm being too harsh. In fact, I most likely am. However, I'm not ashamed in the least to say that I have a 0% tolerance level for profanity. Honestly, how does it improve or add to the book in any positive way? It doesn't. It's not necessary. Soooo, why is it there? I usually give a book 3 marks, then turn it off. You know, three tries you're out. The third mark was the b word.
I'm a Christian. I don't mess with cursing. It's so clearly against everything our holy, pure, God stands
Jun 05, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of WWII novels
4.5 stars

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.”

What a touching story! World War II brought misery to the world, it's common knowledge; However, what isn't though is how the life of the residents of the countries on USSR borders transformed. What they suffered, how much pain they went through and everything they had to endure, to survive. Told from the perspective of a young hopeful artist, Between Shades of Gray shows us the
Jun 04, 2011 Janina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janina by: Nomes
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
Aug 31, 2016 Cara rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2016 Polly rated it really liked it
I completely appreciate how important and powerful this story is. I was definitely kept hooked from the beginning and even though it was difficult to read at times I really enjoyed it.

The only reasons it doesn't get five stars from me only because it didn't hit me emotionally as I thought it would. Maybe because of how popular and hyped this book is I thought I would be a bit of wreck when I read it but for some reason I didn't cry at all. I can't really pinpoint why but maybe my expectations w
Feb 12, 2016 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just wow. This book was so beautiful. It was phenomenally written and I really felt for all of these characters. I could never even begin to imagine what these people went through, it's is absolutely horrifying. That being said I had no idea that this piece of history existed, so many history books just brush over these terrible facts. I really encourage everyone to read this book, truly.
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
Dec 31, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing
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)

Tom Mathews
Dec 04, 2015 Tom Mathews rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone.
Warning: This is not a review of Fifty Shades of Grey or one of its sequels. If you have come to this page looking for a soft porn review, you have come to the wrong place.
Between Shades of Gray (spelled ‘g-r-A-y) is the debut novel by Ruta Sepetys. It is one of those books that you hear great things about and really want to read but may put off actually reading because the subject matter doesn’t sound all that entertaining. After all, just how much fun can a book about forced deportation and So
I don't know what I was expecting when I decided to read this story since I relied on friends' recommendations. I knew it was about Stalin's deportation of Lithuanians in 1939, which in itself was an aspect of world history I hadn't known. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of that action, told using fictional characters (with one exception) but recited based on factual recollections.

I implore you to read this book as there was a concerted governmental effort to bury what happened t
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
[~Ami~]♥Sexy Dexy♥
Feb 04, 2016 [~Ami~]♥Sexy Dexy♥ rated it it was amazing
5 stars

It's times like this I wish I was a crier. This was not an easy read. It definitely ranks up there with my other historical favourites A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Girl You Left Behind.

I must admit Lina was quite reckless at times but she was 15 years old! Also I do normally prefer a bit more romance and fun scenes but I felt so much emotion by the end of the book. Eventhough I wanted more I felt the ending was perfect for the type of book it is. Definitely recommend if you enjoy war
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Berlin Boxing Club
  • Strings Attached
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)
  • Never Fall Down
  • The Queen of Water
  • Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood
  • Okay for Now
  • Crossing Stones
  • Jefferson's Sons
  • Deadly
  • Audacity
  • My Family for the War
  • Forge (Seeds of America, #2)
  • The Year We Were Famous
  • Shadow on the Mountain
  • The War within These Walls
  • Chasing Secrets
  • The Lions of Little Rock
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. As an author of historical fiction, Ruta is drawn to stories of strength through struggle. 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 O ...more
More about Ruta Sepetys...

Share This Book

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.” 568 likes
“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.” 552 likes
More quotes…