Books, YA Fiction

Between Shades Of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys


Rating: 2.5

“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward.”

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.

Well! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologize for my hiatus, I’ve been busy these days and many distractions have kept me from blogging and… reading. It makes me sad to think that it has become this way when before I couldn’t go a day without reading or going on Goodreads. Anyway, hopefully I can get my life back on track soon and blog more!

Yet another book has disappointed me, and it’s actually very surprising. I knew that a lot of books aren’t pleasing me nowadays, but I never thought it would have gone this far! Between Shades Of Gray isn’t something I would call hyped but critically acclaimed. Many reviewers and authors have praised the book, and I have to say that I don’t fully understand how.

Let me start with the good: the history was very interesting and eye-opening. I had never heard of the Lithuanian impact in the war, and I liked how the characters would discuss their current situation. I definitely gained more insight. All the characters were important and layered. There wasn’t one character that was added in just for the hell of it, each one played an important role in moving along the story and affecting the main characters in good ways and bad ways. Lina was brave and willing to take risks, Andrius was likable and wise, and let’s be real here, Lina’s mother was the ultimate hero.

*sighs* Now, the bad. 😐

When you write a book about a very sensitive and emotional topic such as World War 2, or any war for that matter, emotion and having that gut-wrenching feel to the book is necessary. Unfortunately, the emotion is what Between Shades Of Gray lacks, and what ultimately made it a flop for me. Some pages were filled with description after description, while some other pages contained dialogue to no end. When there was dialogue, Lina’s thoughts were not offered in any way so we couldn’t see her emotion or feelings while she went through a tough time. I don’t know if I’m in a position to say this, but most of the time it was “telling” instead of “showing”. I expected to feel emotional while reading the book, but even the most crucial deaths did not get to me in the least. In fact, it felt like all the events that happened in the book were simply there to move the story along. If this hadn’t happened, the book would have been the ultimate success. Just a little more emphasis on Lina and the characters’ struggles and their inner thoughts would have made this book so real.

I think the background romance would have been more appreciated if Sepetys focused on that and that only. By writing a story of two people who find love during a war only to be separated, Lina and Andrius’ emotions would have been more clear and actually present. Since this is a mainly historical novel, emphasizing on the struggles of the people in the camps, the romance felt unnecessary and forced. It was there to give a more YA effect, and I think romance always attracts more readers.

Overall, Between Shades Of Gray is usually something I wouldn’t recommend but since the majority of readers loved it, I suggest you give it a try. But if you are looking for something with more emotion, you can do better than this book.


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