I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when books are compared to others. I get REALLY nervous when books are compared to books I love. I find that, for the most part, this leads to a letdown.
Between Shades of Gray has been compared to The Book Thief.
I completely and totally love The Book Thief. With, like, most of my heart. So, naturally, I was also completely and totally nervous about Between Shades of Gray.
I’ll say this right now. I needn’t have been. While in many ways, Between Shades of Gray is not like The Book Thief, in others it is. And I have nothing but love, now for both of the books.
Between Shades of Gray has war, and prisons camps, and family, and strength, and hope, and love. So much love. Oh geez, I’m going to cry again. Just let me get to what the book is about:
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, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages 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, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
That last part? About how Between Shades of Gray is novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart? THAT IS SO TRUE. I was slightly surprised by just how much. On the surface, it seems like I wouldn’t have a lot in common with Lina. She’s 15. I’m 35. She’s Lithuanian. I’m American. She has a loving family life with her parents and brother. I had a loving family life with my grandparents, and now my husband and children. She was sent to a labor camp in Siberia. I’ve never had such treatment. We DO have art in common, and we’re both girls, but that’s about it. Yet, thanks to Sepetys gorgeous writing, I felt I came to know Lina so well. I could understand her. I could imagine what I would do in her place. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be nearly as strong as she was.
After all I’ve said, I bet you’re thinking, “But Heather, this book will make me cry!” Well, yes, it probably will. Books about war are sad, especially when told through the eyes of a young person. However, there is so much HOPE in this book. Lina. Never. Gives. Up. Through the worst things that could happen to a person, she never gives up hope, she never gives up love, and she never, ever, gives up her strength. I’m telling you; Lina will steal your heart, just as surely as she stole mine.
Frankly put, this book is not to be missed.
Notes on the reader: Emily Klein was perfect. Her voice was soft, young, and just absolutely perfect for Lina. At first, I wasn’t too sure, but she completely won me over.
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”
“I left the jutra to chop wood. I began my walk through the snow, five kilometers to the tree line. That’s when I saw it.
A tiny silver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon.
I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling.
The sun had returned.
I closed my eyes. I felt Andrius moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said.
“Yes, I will see you,” I whispered “I will.”
I reached into my pocket and squeezed the stone.”
“Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way. But it’s far more sincere in its clumsiness than those distinguished men you read about in books. Your father was very clumsy.”
He stopped and turned to me. “No. Don’t be scared. Don’t give them anything Lina, not even your fear.”
Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Read by Emily Klein
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 4/3/2012
Pages: 368; Time: 7 hours, 47 minutes
Acquired from the NC Digital Library