Monday, February 22, 2016

Guest Review: Between Shades of Gray

Here we have Amy @ Ode to Jo & Katniss, who will be reviewing Between Shades of Grey, which coincidentally is part of the event giveaway! In other words, you can comment on this post, follow Amy via Twitter and Bloglovin, and have that all count towards entries in the event's giveaway!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
352 pages
Rating: 1/2

It's 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin's extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It's a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

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Lina is an average teenage girl living in Lithuania in 1941. She's best friends with her cousin and she loves art. In the world of war and politics, however, a storm is brewing that she is only vaguely aware of. Then the Soviets come to arrest families like Lina's, punishing them for crimes against their ideals.

Between Shades of Gray is, hands-down, one of the most important fiction books I've ever read. While I have read some incredible books about WWII, both fiction and non-fiction, Between Shades of Gray opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of the war I didn't even know about: people groups (not just Jews or people that hid them, but in this case non-Soviets living in the Baltic states) sent to Siberia for over a decade. For longer than the war. And somehow, it was kept quiet. No one came charging in to save the day. These people suffered in silence. And when they came home, they were outcasts.

Lina's story is an interesting mixture of incredibly sad but also a little hopeful. From the time she is forced to leave her home, crammed onto a cargo train with strangers, to her time at a labor camp, to her twelve year imprisonment in Siberia (which we only see a glimpse of), there are so many lows. Yet occasionally there is a small element of hope to carry her through.

I feel the story is probably realistic for the most part. When I expected something big and wonderful to happen to turn everything around, for Lina and her family to be saved from hardship, it didn't happen that way. And while a couple things did almost feel unlikely, the author's note afterward made it clear that people really did experience these various situations and survive them, just like Lina.

My one criticism of the book from a narrative standpoint was I felt there was an unresolved theme and the book sort of ends without real closure, however, I also understand why these choices were made and can respect it.

Between Shades of Gray haunted me for days. For me personally it raised the question of how aware I am of what is happening in the world in other countries. It's so easy to be wrapped up in our own lives and concerns, when there is so much more serious suffering happening elsewhere. It's easy to look back at history and blame people for not taking action back then, but will we one day be blamed for the same thing?

Needless to say, I am now a Ruta Sepetys fan, and I am eagerly anticipating reading more of her historical fiction.

If you've read Between Shades of Gray, what are your thoughts? Also, many thanks to Val for letting me contribute to this event!

Amy is an aspiring YA author and blogs at Ode to Jo and Katniss, where she talks about books, writing, TV, and movies. She's a Trekkie, chocoholic, and Hufflepuff. You can follow her almost anywhere on social media @acshawYA.
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