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Between Shades of Gray

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  91,606 Ratings  ·  13,780 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
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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)
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Sasha Alsberg
Jan 16, 2017 Sasha Alsberg rated it really liked it
Really loved this book and it's story because I personally have never heard about this side of the war before and I'm so grateful I know about it now.
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
Dec 20, 2010 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
Sep 07, 2015 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
Apr 24, 2011 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
Jan 01, 2011 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 (HaileyInBookland)
What a powerfully poignant story. Really unexpected and unique, but so so important. Video review to come!
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
I think I may have made a mistake reading this on audio, as I didn't find it as compelling as most. I found the narrators tone very off from themes of the story, which left me separated from it. This largely unknown history was very interesting and tragic, by I didn't feel the close connection to the narrative that many did, due to the version I read it in.
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.
May 04, 2015 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
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
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
Mar 03, 2011 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
Oct 23, 2010 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 04, 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
I have been reading books about the Siberian experience through many years, written by either survivors or observers. Each time I am confronted with the absolute horror of the people's destinies, I want to lash out and scream until someone would listen and make amends. Scream! Scream! Scream! And then break down and cry my heart out.
"It is estimated that Josef Stalin killed more than twenty million people during his reign of terror. The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estoni
Feb 23, 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
Oct 26, 2015 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
Apr 21, 2011 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 13, 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
Jan 03, 2015 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
Inés Izal
Este libro va directo a mis favoritos. Se ha quedado grabado a fuego en mi alma.
Reseña en:
Feb 10, 2017 Norma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hope * Survival * Love * Faith

Well that was another enlightening, emotional, and an absolutely awesome 5* read!

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by RUTA SEPETYS is a deeply moving, compelling, heart-wrenching, and a powerful read which is beautifully written that captured my heart from the very first chapter. This was definitely another page-turner and extremely hard to put down.

“A tiny sliver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon.”   

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is a brilliant title for this n
Dec 08, 2015 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
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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...

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“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.” 592 likes
“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.” 572 likes
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