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Between Shades of Gray

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  212,277 ratings  ·  24,783 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
Paperback, 344 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Puffin Books (first published March 22nd 2011)
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Average rating 4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  212,277 ratings  ·  24,783 reviews

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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
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. ...more
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
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 tr
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

My thoughts in a nutshell
Between Shades of Gray is a harrowing read. My thoughts will be shorter this time because I couldn't say anything about this horrid occasion. :-(

The story is about…
Skip over this point if you don't like the sneak peek.
A Lithuanian girl Lina and her family will be deported to Siberia. She has to learn to survive in a work camp without food or clean clothes. They have to work in terrible circumstances to avoid starvation. Lina is an artist. She draws everything that she
Angela M (On a little break)
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
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
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ruta sepetys has stated that when survivors are gone, we have the obligation to not let the truth disappear with them. that we need to give them a voice. and i think she does that so perfectly with this novel.

what i really appreciated about this book in particular was the awareness brought to one aspect of WWII that tends to be forgotten. i see countless of stories about the atrocities hitler enacted against the jewish people, and i think we all tend to get caught up in that that we forget there
'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?!
Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
What a powerfully poignant story. Really unexpected and unique, but so so important. Video review to come!
(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
Elyse Walters
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Lisa.... and many others on Goodreads.
For some reason because I had read the book “Salt to Sea”, by Ruta Sepetys, years ago - an engrossing WWII about a devastating tragedy - I had a pre-conceived thought that this book was either an extension - or wouldn’t be much different. They have similarities in that they are both suspense survival stories during WWII, which are both written with emotional vigor - but the stories themselves are different.

With only three days left before this bo
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 th
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.
Iben Frederiksen
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.”

Frightening, beautiful and haunting are three words that best desribes this book.

Lina, her mother and her younger brother Jonas' lives are abruptly changed forever, when the NKVD, the Soviet law enforcement, enter their home one evening in 1941. Twenty minutes later, they're on a truck with other lithuanian people, about to be deported for being 'anti-soviet criminals'. They are put on a tr
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
sure whatever i didn't need the remaining scraps of my heart to be operational a n y w a y

this, like the other ruta sepetys book i've read, Salt to the Sea, focuses on an extremely tragic historical event that is semi-forgotten, or at least not discussed often enough. in this case, it's Stalin's mid-twentieth century deportation of millions of people in the Baltic states.

this book is sad, sad, sad, impressive, well-written, and extremely important. and also so sad.

if historical fiction isn't you
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. ...more
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
EXCERPT: They took me in my nightgown.

Thinking back, the signs were there - family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewellery into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realise that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.

We were taken.

Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
This is such a powerful story, and a subject that I knew nothing about. Most people know about the atrocities of Hitler's reign, especially those perpetrated against Jewish people. But in this novel Sepetys examines the lesser known genocide of hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, and other Baltic peoples, under Stalin during the same time as the Holocaust. It's tragic and horrifying and such an important read. I'll admit that for a book aimed at young adults, Sepetys doesn't pull any punches, ...more
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
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
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
Why I chose to listen to this audiobook:
1. several positive reviews on Goodreads raved about this story. Its unique historical premise led me to add it to my WTR list;
2. my audiobook hold became available on Overdrive; and,
3. as part of my summer vacation, I've designated August to be my "As the Spirit Moves Me Month".

1. I was ignorant about the Baltic countries when they were under Soviet rule. Author Ruta Sepetys's extensive research led to this realistic historical fiction about 15-ye
Oct 03, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A terrible time in history, horrific human behavior, tragic atrocities against people. 😢 This book is as heart wrenching as you would imagine. 💔 While depressing to read, it’s important to remember the fight and pay tribute to the people who were lost.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray is partly based upon the stories Sepetys heard from survivors of the genocide of Baltic people during a visit to her relatives in Lithuania.

Sepetys decided she needed to write a fiction novel rather than a non-fiction volume as a way of making it easier for survivors to talk to her. She interviewed dozens of people during her stay. Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life, until Soviet officers invade her home
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
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.
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. While I was reading it, I wondered, how can I read this book? It's so sad and brutal, and reminds me of the holocaust stories I read back in high school and was so interested in, asking myself questions like, how can people treat other people this way? Sometimes I felt the sadness weighing me down, and wanted to stop reading the book. I think the fact that the 15 year old protagonist was an artist, and Sepetys does such a good job of describing her art, pulled me into the st ...more
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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#1 New York Times Bestselling Author and Winner of the Carnegie Medal.
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren't able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over sixty c

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