Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – Book 71

Before you write this book off, don’t think that this novel has anything to do with any sort of book that has in the title “shades” and “gray/grey.”  Not even closely related.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a historical fiction novel about how the Lithuanians were affected by World War II, specifically by Stalin and Hitler.

This is technically a young adult novel, but definitely has value for adults.  I had no previous background about the Lithuanian situation during WWII, and this book has inspired me to do a little more research on the subject.

Lina, her mother, and her younger brother Jonas are taken away from their home in Lithuania and placed onto cattle cars.  They are separated from their father, who was also taken but placed with other men.

Lina and family are taken to the frozen land of Siberia where they are made to work in camps, complete hard labor, and struggle to survive.  Throughout the story, you learn about Lina’s past through flashbacks that illuminate the relationship she has with her father and her cousin Joana.

This book has received mixed reviews, both by bloggers and on the review websites.  I can see the value in the the reviews, but I disagree with the negative ones.  I enjoyed the unique take on the stories normally told about WWII.

Lina shows great strength for a teenager, working hard while retaining a quest to survive, but she still shows vulnerability while experiencing a growing crush on a boy, even during this harsh time.

If you are interested in World War II and historical fiction, I think you would enjoy this story of Lina, told from a more unique perspective as a Lithuanian teenager during this troublesome time.

What do you think of historical fiction? Do you think it’s a valuable way to learn about history?



30 thoughts on “Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – Book 71

  1. I have learned my about History through Historical fiction than from most history books. It inspires you to do research and follow up on the time frame. One of the best classes I took in college combined American Literature with American History. We read historical fiction from the same timeframes we studied. It was amazing. It gave you the broad strokes of history and the people stories of historical fiction. 🙂


  2. Funny, another blogger friend recommended this book to me. I am not sure if I want to read it since she mentioned some sad parts here and I tend to steer clear from emotional/traumatic stories. ANyway, I like historical fiction and I think people must read more of them.


  3. Ohhhh a book I’ve read!
    I liked it very much, mainly because I didn’t know anything about Russia during and afther the WW II, it seems like a secret part of the history (for me).
    I agree with you that it is young adult, but it is a good story with good characters. I remember when Lina tried to contact with her father through her pictures; she was very sweet.


  4. Yes, and they were there for 15 years!!! I mean, everything in that war was terrible, as in every war, but you know, the camps were closed in Germany and the people were freed when the war finished, but in Russia they had to continue being slaves for too much! Poor people!
    I aslo knew that people were sent to Siberia, but nothing more.


  5. I haven’t read this, but it sounds a teeensy bit like the situation in Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (which I loved.) You rarely hear about what was going on in the Russian corner during WWII, and it’s an important story to tell. I love historical fiction. Well researched historical fiction has taught me so many great things!


  6. I’m so glad you did this review because I was wondering about this book. It sounds like a good read with a fresh perspective. I love both historical fiction and historical nonfiction. One gives you (usually) reliable facts or academic interpretations of events, while the other puts you in the skin of a person allowing you to see and feel how one might have experienced those facts. Thanks for another great review! -Ilene


  7. I think in many ways historical fiction can be more valuable than non-fiction, because it deals with themes and life in a different way. For example you’ll find out minor details easily in fiction rather than non-fiction. This book does have an unfortunate title given it’s release date but from what I’ve read, and your review too, it sounds good, worth a look.


  8. I think I have learned more about history through historical fiction than I ever did in high school or college.

    One of my 6th grade girls wanted to read this book after I read it. Yep, got a call from her mom that night. To make sure it wasn’t the “you know” book. Really? 🙂 I DID mark out a couple of words/sentences since my student is in the 6th grade. 🙂

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book!



    • There are some tougher concepts in the book, but a mature 6th grader should be able to handle it, if they have some sort of background on the Holocaust already, I think.

      But for me, it gave me an eye-opening experience of how other people were treated by the Nazis besides the Jewish people. We always hear others were affected but I haven’t stumbled upon a story like this one which tells it!


      • You’re right. I didn’t realize either that the Lithuanians or any others were also deported and mistreated. Over 6 years of history classes, and then 1 book teaches me more than I ever learned then. 🙂



  9. One of the teachers at my school suggested that I read this. It was really well done ; offering a different view on the subject. I have since recommended it to some of my Middle School readers.


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