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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great new voice in Young Adult fiction
We have all read many books telling the horrific story of the suffering inflicted on the Jewish population during WW2, but I wonder how many of us know anything about the millions of innocents murdered on the orders of Stalin. It is certainly something I was only dimly aware of. I know more now. This brilliant new book follows the life of a 15 year old Lithuanian girl,...
Published on 3 April 2011 by Jan

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished story
This story started so well and kept me mesmerized. However, just when a solution seemed to be reached, it ran out of steam. Very disappointing.
Published 21 months ago by Dakota 63


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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great new voice in Young Adult fiction, 3 April 2011
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
We have all read many books telling the horrific story of the suffering inflicted on the Jewish population during WW2, but I wonder how many of us know anything about the millions of innocents murdered on the orders of Stalin. It is certainly something I was only dimly aware of. I know more now. This brilliant new book follows the life of a 15 year old Lithuanian girl, who, along with the rest of her family, is arrested and sent to Siberia following the Russian occupation of her country. They are taken from their warm, comfortable home, transported huge distances in lorries and railway trucks and then made to work on the land in freezing conditions, while receiving little food and sheltering in poorly contructed hovels. It is a bleak and tragic tale, but in the midst of such suffering there are astonishing acts of human kindness, friendships are born and even love manages to blossom. An amazing book. Read it!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Between Shades of Gray, 4 April 2011
By 
Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
I first heard of Between Shades of Gray during the summer of 2010, and knew immediately after reading the summary that I would like it. Anything set during WWII automatically makes its way onto my bookshelf, and I usually end up loving it. Prime examples are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Once by Morris Gleitzman and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, which are all brilliant and are on my list of books I never stop talking about. Between Shades of Gray is now also on that list, and I haven't stopped recommending it since I read it. As a debut novel, it's outstanding, and as a piece of WWII literature, it's honest, important and long overdue.

Between Shades of Gray chronicles the life of 15-year-old Lina and her family, who are deported from Lithuania to Siberia at the top of the Arctic Circle. In all my years of personal WWII research, through reading YA and adult fiction and watching numerous films and TV shows, I've never come across anything to do with the Baltic States and their involvement in the war. I don't think it's a story that has been focused on or told much, which is why I think Ruta's book is so significant. I'm almost 24 years old, and until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that Lithuanian people went through what they did at the hands of the Soviets, and being introduced to this part of the war was like discovering an untold story that has been buried for years.

As I'm sure you can imagine, most of the NKVD officers who travelled with Lina and her fellow prisoners were horrible human beings. They had no qualms with killing or hurting adults and children in their charge, and often saw it as a funny game. They were there to do a job, and subsequently treated the deportees as nothing more than an object that needed to be moved from one place to another. At times their actions were genuinely hard to read about and, as the novel progressed, I found myself dreading what I knew was going to inevitably happen. Unspeakable evil took place in all factions of the Second World War, and no matter how much I see or read, it never gets easier to imagine.

Ruta wrote this book as a work of fiction, but did extensive research beforehand which led to many real-life survivor's stories being interspersed with Lina's fictional account. Knowing that before I read the book made it even more heartbreaking and eye-opening, as the whole time I was wondering which scene actually happened and which poor person really did lose their life to the Soviets. It made it all the more real knowing that the story was grounded in so much truth and reality, and I think the Latvian heritage has been preserved with an enormous amount of respect. The memory of the millions of people involved in this war, and those wars before and after, deserves nothing less, and I'm really glad Ruta told this story in the way she did.

I knew Between Shades of Gray would reduce me to a sobbing mess - I knew that before I even read one single page - but I wasn't prepared for it to affect me the way it has. It's become one of those books that has engrained itself in my mind and one that, so far, I find myself coming back to at regular intervals. If every school library doesn't have a copy of this on their shelves, it will be nothing short of a crime against all that the education system stands for. It's a hopeful story that needs to be read, absorbed and passed on but, most importantly, it's a story that needs to be remembered and talked about for many years to come.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Determined bravery amidst horrible cruelty, 21 July 2011
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lina Vilkas is an ordinary teenage girl living in Lithuania, and her favourite means of expression is drawing; she is a keen artist and admires the artist Edvard Munch. As the novel opens she is sitting writing to her cousin Joana, when in the space of a moment, her life suddenly changes forever. Lithuania and the other Baltic States had fallen under Soviet occupation, and one day in June 1941, Lina, together with her mother Elena and her little brother Jonas, is dragged from her home by Soviet secret police with just a hastily packed suitcase, and taken on a long horrific journey with many others, squashed into train carts like cattle, across Russia to a labour camp in Siberia. Thrown together like this, people forge friendships in the struggle to get by, some more surprising and unlikely than others. Throughout this tortuous ordeal, Lina draws whenever she can, and using whatever makeshift equipment for paper and brushes, but she is determined to try and record the people and places and events, in desperate hope of them somehow reaching her father one day; his whereabouts are unknown to the rest of the family when they are taken.

This is an epic tale of sadness, hardship, and endurance, told from the viewpoint of a young girl with a strong will to survive, and there is such a strength of spirit and determination in the face of the cruelty they suffer. It doesn't seem appropriate to say I `enjoyed' this novel, but it is well-written, very convincingly from Lina's point of view, and tells of an aspect of World War Two that I knew little about, having read much less about region and what happened, than novels featuring Germany, England and France during this period.

The author is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and she lives in the USA, and she wanted to tell this story so that more people would be aware of all those from the Baltic states who lost their lives in Stalin's purges, as even those who survived many years in Siberia and returned to live in Lithuania and the other countries were unable to speak of what happened to them for so long as they were still living under Soviet rule until 1991. She has based some of the events on real first-hand accounts from survivors.

I certainly learned from this poignant novel and am glad so many will read this about know a little about what happened. I loved the ending to the story and what Lina had done.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am proud to be Lithuanian, 28 May 2011
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
[...] watch it before reading a book.
I am so happy that finally the world has opportunity to know what my nation had to suffer.
Thank you for the author so much-the story is written perfectly!
Thank you,readers, for your comments and please please pass around this book!
Jurgita
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and beautifully written, 16 April 2012
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
Alison: [...]

Lina lives a happy life in Lithuania, the daughter of a university professor she enjoys life as any teenager her age would at that time. But now Stalin has annexed Lithuania and all people who pose any kind of threat to his regime must be dealt with. Lina, her brother and Mother are woken one night by Soviet Guards, put into cattle cars on a train as their lives as they knew them will never be the same again.

This is a beautifully written story and I defy anyone not too need tissues at the ready by the end. The subject matter is bleak, undeniably, but there is such strength and hope held within the book too. Although the conditions within the work camps in Siberia are horrific and described as such, the focus within the book is on how people will band together and help each other, even when they have very little themselves. A book such as this could have quite easily focused on the darker side of human nature, yet here you are even left feeling some level of sympathy for one of the guards in the camp. The quality of the writing really brings the story alive and it is very obvious that a huge amount of research was done in writing the book, as it feels very real.

Lina is a really strong central character. She is very real and hasn't been romanticised in any way. She is far from perfect and doesn't always do the right thing. This only serves to make her more believable.

The only aspect that I found slightly disappointing was the ending. The theme of hope is carried through right to the end and the ending does give the reader hope that there is life at the end of the tunnel for these characters. I don't feel that the epilogue was needed though. Those two pages on their own raised questions that I wanted answering, questions I wouldn't have had had it not been included. I don't know if there are plans for a second book, if there are it could explain the epilogues inclusion.

Verdict: Haunting and beautifully written. A bleak book that at the same time highlights the better side of human nature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!!!, 20 July 2011
By 
Kate "book worm !!!!!" (ipswich suffolk england) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
I when i started this book i expected it to be boring , It turned out to be the best book i've ever ever read.
From the first chapter i was hooked , it is an incredible book about human suffering.
I feel everyone should read this book to learn about this untold story that knew not of before i read this.
It made me laugh occasionally but wept for the most part .
Ruta's vivid descriptions make you feel like you are really there.

Whatever you do just read this book ! :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative tale of a story often overshadowed by the Holocaust., 18 July 2011
By 
Arkgirl (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a book targetted at the young adult market but it so effectively highlights the horrific truth of the treatment of Lithuanians by the Soviet army that I would encourage all ages to read it. It tells of the transportation of a young girl, with her mother and brother, from their home in Lithuania to the wilds of Siberia. The narrative voice is 15 year old Lina and there is an effective juxtaposition between the horrific jouney through Russia and her previous life at home.
It is a harrowing tale that moves the reader and encouraged me to look into the historical details of this period. Although it is a fictional account it does draw on the real experiences of the author's family and I believe this adds depth and truth.
I will be encouraging family members to read it as it is a book that makes you think and feel!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every school child should read this, 8 May 2011
By 
Jayne Timmins (west midlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
I brought this book as I was intrigued by the subject. Not knowing much about the war myself I started reading this book and couldn't put it down. It is a very emotional subject about a young girl and her family who are taken prisoner by the Russians during World War 2. This is the start of a story that will span years. I believe that teenage child should study books like this one to enable them to realise what a privileged life most have today. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, brutal and stunning YA debut novel, 31 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Between Shades Of Gray (Paperback)
15-year-old Lina's life is turned upside down when she, her mother and her brother are taken from her home in the middle of the night by the Soviet soldiers who have recently invaded Lithuania. All Lina knows is that her father's been separately taken (his fate unknown) and the Soviets have labelled them as thieves and subversives. They're deported to Siberia to work in a labour camp to atone for their "crimes". The guards are brutal. Life is harsh. For sensitive, artistic Lina, the horrors are unimaginable but she continues to hope because hope is all that keeps her and her family alive ...

Ruta Sepetys's debut YA novel is a harrowing, brutal and personal tale of the horrors suffered by the people of the occupied Baltic states at the hands of the Soviet invaders. There are times when it's difficult to read and I think that its impact is very much let down by an abrupt ending, but this is a powerful debut that well deserved its critical reception and deals with a subject that the West is willing to brush under the carpet.

Intelligent and sharp tongued, Lina's a little too fast and free with her opinion in a world where opinions can get you killed. Seen through her eyes, the journey to Siberia and camp life is particularly bleak and it is at times difficult to read the casual cruelty of the guards (which extends to killing children and grief stricken mothers). Her relationship with Andrius, whose mother is bullied into serving as a comfort woman for the guards is fraught with tension with each suspecting the other's motives. I enjoyed the way Sepetys shows the small acts of kindness that sustain them through their hardship.

Central to the book though is the relationship between Lina and her mother, who speaks Russian and who keeps the Lithuanians united against the Russians but doesn't judge those who give in. The mother is an incredible character and I loved her strength and dignity and the lengths she'll go to in order to protect her family.

Although based on the experiences of Sepetys's family, unfortunately the book's let down by an abrupt ending that's topped off with a postscript that felt tacked on. Given the awfulness of Lina's predicament, I wanted to know how she makes it out of it and could easily have read a longer book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished story, 18 Dec 2012
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This story started so well and kept me mesmerized. However, just when a solution seemed to be reached, it ran out of steam. Very disappointing.
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Between Shades Of Gray
Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Paperback - 7 April 2011)
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