Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys

Fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother are dragged from their... read more

Fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother are dragged from their home and packed into a train car in the opening pages of this harrowing novel that begins in Lithuania on June 14, 1941. After a harsh six-week journey with other political prisoners, they arrive in Siberia, where they spend the next several months working on a beet and potato farm before being moved to a prison camp in the Arctic Circle. Author Ruta Sepetys examines Joseph Stalin’s barbaric campaign against the Baltic peoples through the experiences of a teen and her family in a novel that makes history immediate, intimate, and powerful. The struggle for survival as they face starvation, abuse, and illness contrast with Lina’s memories of her life at home, where she dreamed of being an artist and was surrounded by the conversations of her parents and other intellectuals. Desperate for word of her father, who she knows was on another train of prisoners, and in a constant state of fear—for her mother, her brother, herself—Lina is sustained by anger, and by art, creating drawings on anything she can find. The riveting pace and dramatic tension of Sepetys’s narrative is matched by an indelible sense of place and wonderfully drawn secondary characters, each of who reveals another dimension of the tragedy that unfolded across those mid-twentieth-century years in moments that are sometimes cruel, sometimes courageous, and often, simply, so very human. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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