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Between Shades of Gray

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4.36  ·  Rating details ·  102,958 Ratings  ·  15,330 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.

...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2011 by Penguin (first published March 22nd 2011)
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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)
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Sasha Alsberg
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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Lora
Dec 20, 2010 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
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Lola  Reviewer
I don’t know what the educational plan looks like in other Canadian provinces – it should be quite similar to Quebec’s – but where I went to high school we learned so little about the social consequences of World War II, so I’m grateful I have books like BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY to enlighten me on the subject.

Here’s the thing: this is different from Ruta Sepetys’ other novels. Maybe because it’s her first one, I don’t know, but suffice it to say, it’s not as impossible to put down. Because it foc
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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
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Ariana
'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?!
Wel
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Angela M
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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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
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Elana
(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
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Hirdesh
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I tried to sketch but couldn’t. When I started to draw, the pencil moved by itself, propelled by something hideous that lived inside of me.”

Oh my goodness ! Perfect Historical fiction book. It's more than my expectations and quite contemplate with "The Thousand splendid suns". Praiseworthy one, Enjoyed every word.
Words and ratings on here couldn't exactly defines this book........
Ruta Sepetys, I Love You ! ! !
What a splendid writing and expressions of Lina, she has made.
Just like she has exper
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Jamie
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
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Hailey (HaileyinBookland)
What a powerfully poignant story. Really unexpected and unique, but so so important. Video review to come!
Stephanie
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
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grace
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished this in a couple sittings. What a blow to the heart. So beautiful, devastating, and important.
Samantha
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.
Tabetha
May 04, 2015 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
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Phrynne
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew
Powerful! Tough to read, but an interesting take on a part of history we hear little about.

I have seen lots of reviews where people feel this book ends abruptly (maybe spoiler-ish stuff ahead), but I felt like it was showing that all they needed was someone to show them some compassion before all was lost.
Norma
Feb 10, 2017 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
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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:

description

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
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Margitte
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.
AUTHOR’S NOTE
"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
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Nicole
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of WWII novels
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.”


4.5 stars

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 t

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Dem
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
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emily
Aug 04, 2015 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
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*TANYA*
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2017, own-it
I have a HUGE book hangover from this one!!! I cried so much, mascara running, sobs, the whole nine yards!! Fascinating, HEART WRENCHING BOOK!!! A must read!!!
Kristi
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Madelyn
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Amalia Gavea
I will not go into the details of the story, nor will I offer my opinion regarding the events described. This is hardly the place for me to do something like that. Instead, I will comment upon how Ruta Sepetys' novel made me feel.

I cannot remember the last time I cried over a novel. It must have been long ago. With Between Shades of Gray, it was hard to restrain myself from the very first chapters. During the last ten chapters, it became unbearable. Without spoiling a single thing, this book i
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Cara
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
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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.” 629 likes
“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.” 596 likes
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