Annalisa's Reviews > Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
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's review
Jan 21, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: book-club, young-adult, historical-fiction
Read from July 27 to August 05, 2012

For such a heavy subject matter, I found most of this book to be a little... light. I can appreciate Sepetys attempt to bring some of the USSR's atrocities to YA, to help the youth of today relate to the youth in Stalin's day, to tell the mostly untold story of the Baltic countries during WWII, but it felt a little too much like putting the youth from today back in a history lesson (there was something modern about it that I can't quite put my finger on), so there was a little bit of a disconnect with me. I also felt like for most of the story Sepetys was backing off of some of the heavier issues and drawing out some of the slower points.

While I enjoyed the picture Sepetys drew of Lithuania and some of the emotions and trains of thought that Lina had that I might not have previously considered, I didn't think the novel was as gripping as it should have been. Instead of being pulled into the story, I found myself pulling apart discrepancies and questioning too many things.

There was a lot of sitting around on the train (which I realize they did) where the interesting story of what happened to Andrius under the train is largely ignored. I assume the NKVD did something to him, but then why leave him there where he could escape instead of dragging him out and returning him to his cart or shooting him? There was a chance to make the readers fear the NKVD a little more, to give us a page-turning plot point, but it's never explored. I could have used a lot more realistic fear of the NKVD and breaking of the prisoners the way it would have happened in real life.

Why was Elena encouraging a romance between Lina and Andrius? In their circumstances, Elena should have encouraged Lina to stay under the radar, not encourage her to do something to draw attention, to keep her mouth shut and her head down. When life is debased to basic survival, you don't have time to think about much more than surviving. I'm not saying a romance couldn't have happened, but I would have found it more realistic if they had bonded together and later in life started up a romance instead of feeling like the romance was there because YA has to have a romance.

(view spoiler)

I thought (view spoiler) was predictable and expected that I would feel disconnected to it, but then I started to feel sad for Lina and all the people in that cold Siberian wilderness (and I also had conflicted feelings about Kretzsky that I didn't expect) and I didn't want to novel to end. I finally got out of the story what Sepetys had been aiming for. It took the whole book, but there at the end was a moment that raised the novel from a 2-star to 3-star read for me. The best part of the novel for me was the author's note. I wish the whole novel could have been that way.

I hope YA readers pick this up and connect with Lina in a way I couldn't. I hope they connect with Sepetys transparent love of Lithuania. And I really hope they take it as a springboard to learn more about a time and people that have been squelched by oppression.
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Reading Progress

07/27/2012 page 1
0.0% "Not to be confused with 50 Shades of Grey which I would never read, mostly on principal." 5 comments
02/18/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Lucy I totally agree with your comments about Kretzsky. I knew the author was heavily influencing our reaction to him and it bugged me. I know it make little sense to focus on my frustrations about a novel I genuinely liked but I just feel like there were some loose strings she forgot to tie up. I think she made such a point with Kretzsky because he was the reason for the title. He was bad with some good. Or good with some bad. Gray. I get it. But he was too undeveloped and since our connection to him was limited to Lina's perception, which felt a bit false, like the author made her hate him especially for no reason (she should have been much more preoccupied with hating Ivanovo, or however you spell it because he was much worse) but because he didn't get any chance to show white, the focus remained on Kretzsky. Interesting. Could have been great but was really good, I thought.

Annalisa Sometimes my reviews sound likeI didn't like a book because it's so much easier to focus on what you don't like sometimes. I just read a fantastic middle-grade and it will probably take me over a week to express what I loved about it.

I totally agree about Kretzsky. Could have been great. I see what she was doing with it, but like you said, it was too influenced by what she thought of him. It was a good read though and I'd recommend it, especially for YA who probably wouldn't nit-pick it the way I do.

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