One of the highlights of my summer was vacationing for ten days in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent a few days with just my family in the Kitty Hawk/Kill Devil Hills area and then joined Sandie and her family for a week on Ocracoke Island. That was so much fun, and we had a great time together. While on Ocracoke Island, two of my favorite places were Ocracoke Coffee Company and the local, independent book store, Books to be Red. While shopping at Books to be Red, we chatted with the teenage boy at the register, and when he noticed our purchases were YA books we told him about Teen Lit Rocks.
When Sandie returned to the book store she discovered that he was the owner’s son and she had checked us out, followed us on Twitter and liked us on Facebook! She enjoyed this site so much that she gave us “Between Shades of Gray” by Ruta Sepetys to read. I am so glad that we were given this book because I read it on the long drive home (17 very long hours) from Ocracoke and it is now one of my favorite books.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina’s father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.
I am not sure that I possess the words to describe how powerful and incredible this book truly is. Although I had heard about the genocide that occurred during Stalin’s term in the Soviet Union I actually knew very little about it. This is one of the reasons that Ms. Sepetys wrote this story. She wanted others to know about the horrors that were endured by the Baltic people during that time. She was able to do this by creating the incredible character of Lina, a seemingly typical teenage girl from Lithuania.
Lina is the kind of girl that anyone would want as their friend. Lina was strong, yet also weak; hopeful, yet also despondent; generous, yet also selfish; she was someone we could all relate to. Despite the difficult times, Lina finds strength from her mother Elena to endure the awful train rides, the work camps and later the harsh conditions of Siberia. As long as she had her mother and brother Jonas, she could fight to survive. In the midst of all of this turmoil, Lina meets Andrius who was sent to the camps along with his mother. Lina and her brother Jonas befriend Andrius and he becomes an important part of their lives. Despite the abhorrent conditions, Lina’s friendship with him begins to change; it grows and sustains them.
I couldn’t put the book down and when I was done, I couldn’t stop thinking about Lina, Andrius, Jonas and Elena. This novel changes you in the same way that reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” changes you. Although this is a work of fiction, it is based on true accounts that Ms. Septys heard from actual survivors of Stalin’s reign of terror. She wrote this book to help give a voice to the Lithuanian,Latvian,and Estonians who can no longer speak for themselves. Read this book and hear their stories.
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”
“Andrius turned. His eyes found mine. “I’ll see you,” he said. My face didn’t wrinkle. I didn’t utter a sound. But for the first time in months, I cried. Tears popped from their dry sockets and sailed down my cheeks in one quick stream. I looked away…”Look at me,” whispered Andrius, moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said. “Just think about that. Just think about me bringing you your drawings. Picture it, because I’ll be there.”
“Good men are often more practical than pretty ” said Mother. “Andrius just happens to be both.”
“…evil will rule until good men or women choose to act… This testimony was written to create an absolute record, to speak in a world where our voices have been extinguished. 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.”