Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Published 2011 by Philomel Books

Lina is, at heart, an artist. In fact, she is thinking about her art the night the NKVD storm into her house and take her, her mother, and her brother away. She does not know where her father is. Enduring a long and miserable train ride, Lina and her family find themselves exiled to a work camp. Can Lina's art be the key to her family's survival?

This book generated a ton of buzz when it was published and has been on my radar ever since. It got glowing reviews from other librarians I knew who had read it and is now on this year's Lone Star reading list. My goal is to read all the Lone Star titles this year (this makes 6 of 20 so far), so I found some time to pick this up recently. This book had me from page one. I found myself quickly immersed in Lina's world, hoping and struggling alongside her. Sepetys does an excellent job of describing that world - I felt the misery of the train ride and the despair of those who were forced to take it. I felt the chill of the Siberian air and the unease of the people at the work camp. I really felt this book - it had me in tears a few times. This is a truly gripping and emotional story and I'm pleased to see it on the Lone Star list. Short chapters provide an excellent pace to the novel - they propel readers along, building suspense and a bit of apprehension - what horrors are to come for Lina and her family? I'm happy and dismayed that this book taught me something I didn't know - happy to have had my eyes opened to the horrors endured by the people of the Baltic nations at the hands of Stalin and dismayed that I didn't already know about this. Lina has a strong voice and her art is a beautiful way to cling to hope through the difficult journey she undergoes. This book is an excellent study in humanity and the horrors of war - there are certainly a number of "shades of gray" throughout the book. I completely, completely loved this book and it will definitely be one that sticks with me.

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