Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Sepetys, Ruta.  Between Shades of Gray. Philomel.  2011. ISBN 0399254129


Reader’s Annotation: In 1941 Lithuania Lina is pondering a crush she has on a local boy when her world is torn apart as Soviet soldiers burst into her home. Separated from her father, Lina, her mother and younger brother must survive cruel conditions and hope that they will one day see their father again.

Plot Summary: Lina is your ordinary 15 year old girl going to school, developing crushes on boys and hanging out with her friends. This all changes when Soviet soldiers tear apart her family sending her father onto a crowded and dirty train car while Lina, her mother and brother are forced onto another train.  This story follows Lina’s cruel journey to Siberia and the inhumane treatment they are given by their captors.

It’s inevitable comparisons will be made to The Diary of Anne Frank as both deal with a young girl’s painful story as they face persecution.  Lina’s story is gut wrenching as she endures unimaginable hardships and chronicles this all through her paintings.  Sepetys writing style will make readers feel as if they are a part of the story and the horrors Lina faces.

Stalin’s reign of terror was something I briefly covered in high school history and I believe many teens (and adults for that matter) know little about this time in history.  I think it’s great that Sepetys brings to light the horrible treatment of these people so they are not forgotten.

This will be an emotionally draining read but definitely one that everyone should read.

About the author

Ruta Sepetys was born in Detroit, Michigan and is of Lithuanian descent and is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee.  Between Shades of Gray was inspired by her own family history.  Between Shades of Gray is her debut book.

Her second book, Out of the Easy, will be coming out in early 2013 and follows the daughter of a brothel prostitute.


Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties


Book talking idea

Talk about some of the facts of Stalin’s reign of terror.

Reading level

Ages 12 and up.

Challenge Issues


Why did I include this book?

When I came across this book I thought it was a must read because this time period isn’t well known and the suffering these people went through should not be forgotten.


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Filed under Fiction, Historical

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