Thursday, 14 April 2011

Book Review & Giveaway: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Product details:
Publisher: Puffin.
Release date: April 7th 2011.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

 One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia. 

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn't know if she'll ever see her father or her friends again.

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a powerful and heartbreaking book, and one that details a defining, but often overlooked period of history. If you have studied history, or if you have a personal interest in the history of this time, then you’ll know that books on World War II and all its atrocities usually focus on Hitler and his Nazi regime. But, what of Joseph Stalin, the Russian despot who was responsible for the deaths of twenty million of his own people? The revolting actions of perhaps the bloodiest dictator of them all are a dark historical secret. In this book, Ruta Sepetys has brought this story to life, and in doing so has finally given a voice to all the people who suffered in silence under Stalin’s tyrannical regime. Once I started reading this book, I didn’t put it down until I was done. This is a must-read book for everyone, young or old. It’s not just a book about history, or just a book about war. It’s a book about the enduring power of love, and the will to survive against all odds.

Between Shades of Gray is narrated by Lina a Fifteen year old Lithuanian girl, who is taken from her home along with her mother and younger brother by the Russian secret police (NKVD). From there they are labeled thieves and prostitutes, and transported in the most horrendous of conditions, to the most desolate of regions, where their plight is hidden away from the world. To think that this really happened to so many people is upsetting. To think that it happened because of the whim of one man who took pleasure in seeing his own people suffer is horrific. As much as I love to study history, and as much as this time period in particular interests me, it also horrifies me. This is a harrowing tale. You will read things here that will upset you, and the book will stay with you for a long time.

Lina’s voice is very honest and real. She is a wonderful narrator, an intelligent, artistic girl who’s will to survive is truly uplifting. Through the use of flashbacks, we get glimpses into what Lina’s life was like before she was deported, and we get a sense of all she has lost. This tale is a tense one with savage brutality lurking around every corner at the hands of the NKVD, but throughout their plight Lina and her brother Jonas along with their mother maintain a sense of pride and never give up hope. I thought that Lina’s mother, Elena, was a wonderfully written character. Through her Sepetys truly portrays what a mother will sacrifice for her children. What these characters go through is heartbreakingly sad, and it should be noted that although the story of Lina and her family is a work of fiction, Sepetys met with survivors of this genocide in researching this book, and has incorporated their stories into Between Shades of Gray.

Sepetys prose is simple and sparse and marvelously suited to this story that although harrowing, is also somehow beautiful. The real message of this story is of love, of family bonds and of the power to survive against all odds. Lina’s spirits are kept alive through the hope she maintains of reuniting with her imprisoned father and of her burgeoning relationship with a boy called Andrius, the inclusion of which adds a ltouch of lightness to events, and may even make you smile through your tears.

A gripping and compelling read, this is an important book. It’s also one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and I will be recommending it to everyone I know. Read this book, and then pass it around to your friends and family. Find out more about this period of history. This is a story that deserves to be told, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


I recommend you watch this video where Ruta Sepetys talks about Between Shades of Gray:

Thanks to Puffin books I have three copies of Between Shades of Gray up for grabs.
To be in with a chance to win, just fill in the form below!
Please note: The competition is open to UK & Ireland addresses only - Publishers request.
You don't need to be a blog follower to enter, but it's always appreciated. :)
Competition ends April 22nd 2011.
Good luck!



  1. That video made me cry. Between Shades of Gray sounds amazing and I would truly love to read it. Wow. Heartbreaking video. I'll be thinking about that for a long time.

  2. Thank you for the great review! I've been wanting to read this one, it sounds fantastic.

    BTW: I had Ruta over for Debut Author Incites yesterday if you want to stop by and see what she had to say about the writing and publishing process :)

  3. Dang, wish I could enter:( Great review! I've been wanting to read this ever since all these bloggers started getting ARCS. I love this type of subject!

  4. Wow! This sounds like really worthwhile read. I teach a WWII/Anne Frank unit to my 8th graders and this book sounds like it would be a great extension. I usually focus on Hitler and I don't know too much about Stalin, so I should definitely get my hands on a copy of this book. Thanks for the great review!

  5. @Slowest Bookworm - The video totally made me cry too! I watched it just after I'd finished the book. I was a total blubbering mess!!

    @Christina - This book is a must have for your classroom!

  6. This sounds like such a great book! So lucky for others who get to enter! Thanks for the review!

  7. Between Shades of Gray sounds absolutely heartbreaking! I can't wait to read it. You're right that there has been too little focus on Stalin's atrocities. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  8. Thanks for the review. Interesting story. I'm in the US so haven't entered my name.

  9. I would love to read this book, sounds like a promising premise. (not an entry)

  10. Brilliant review. My copy has just arrived and I have a big box of tissues too !

  11. This sounds like something I would love to read!I know lots about Hitler ect. but not a lot about Stalin. Thanks for the excellent review and the giveaway :)

  12. This is one of the best reviews I have ever read. Your passion for the book comes through so clearly that it would be difficult for anyone not to want to read this book after reading your thoughts.

    Thanks for the giveaway. Regardless of the results I will be getting this one to read and share with my students.

  13. This book sounds interesting and so emotional to read. I already added it to the list, so I'm looking forward reading it.

  14. Wow Leanna, what a stunning review! I've heard nothing but amazing things about this book and I'm really looking forward to reading it and sobbing like a little girl. It sounds poignant and intense and extraordinarily memorable:)

  15. This book sounds amazing I wasn't sure about it but I really want to read it after your beautiful review :)

  16. Between Shades of Gray sounds so very sad, I want to read this one and I am almost sure that there will be many many tears.
    One WWII themed book I read is The Book Thief which I truely loved!

  17. Oh wow, this sounds like such a great book.
    It didn't really catch my attention but so many people have given it amazing reviews.
    Fingers crossed for the giveaway!
    Thank you =)

  18. Fab review! I just got this book. I love anything to do with WWII. Between Shades of Gray provides a unique perspective during that time. I'm so happy a book like this was published, not only for teens but everyone! What a terrific video!


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