Review of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

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.


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Despite it's high rating on Goodreads, the pretty cover and the ad on the back of the book 'Discover more about this unforgettable book...' I just didn't find it all that unforgettable. For me, it didn't feel particularly unique and I felt as if I'd read it before. Although Lina was deported by Stalin and not Hitler, the situation she found herself in was rather similar. The problem with these sort of books is that once you've read one, you've read them all. There are a couple that stand out from the crowd (Annexed by Sharon Dogar and I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton Jackson in particular) but the stories are always the same - usually a girl around age 15, trying to stay with her family. They work like crazy, most of her friends and family die, it's all very sad.

One character that was particularly interesting for me was Nikolai Kretzsky, one of the soldiers in the camp. He was different from the rest and helped Lina on many occasions. I would have loved to her read his story rather than hers.

As I was expecting, the story has a nice ending for our heroine and you know she survives - it says it in the description above. What I was expecting was the story to just sort of cut of and then go 'and 50 years later, Lina's fine!' I was hoping to read about her leaving the camp.

3/5

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