Cover image for Between Shades of Gray
Title:
Between Shades of Gray
Author:
Sepetys, Ruta
Subject:
Historical Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Literature
Description:
The inspiration for the major motion picture Ashes in the Snow!"Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both." —The Washington PostFrom New York Times and international bestseller and Carnegie Medal winner Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea, comes a story of loss and of fear — and ultimately, of survival.A New York Times notable bookAn international bestsellerA Carnegie Medal nomineeA William C. Morris Award finalistA Golden Kite Award winnerFifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life — until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?A moving and haunting novel perfect for readers of The Book Thief.Praise for Between Shades of Gray:"Superlative. A hefty emotional punch." —The New York Times Book Review"Heart-wrenching . . . an eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart." —The Los Angeles Times"At once a suspenseful, drama-packed survival story, a romance, and an intricately researched work of historial fiction." —The Wall Street Journal* "Beautifully written and deeply felt . . . An important book that deserves the widest possible readership." —Booklist, starred review "A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch."—The New York Times Book Review "A brilliant story of love and survival."—Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls * "Beautifully written and deeply felt...an important book that deserves the widest possible readership."—Booklist, Starred Review
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group

Speak
Date:
2011/03/22
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

The inspiration for the major motion picture Ashes in the Snow !

"Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both." -- The Washington Post

From New York Times and international bestseller and Carnegie Medal winner Ruta Sepetys, author of Salt to the Sea , comes a story of loss and of fear -- and ultimately, of survival.

A New York Times notable book
An international bestseller
A Carnegie Medal nominee
A William C. Morris Award finalist
A Golden Kite Award winner

Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life -- until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

A moving and haunting novel perfect for readers of The Book Thief .

Praise for Between Shades of Gray :

"Superlative. A hefty emotional punch." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Heart-wrenching . . . an eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart." -- The Los Angeles Times

"At once a suspenseful, drama-packed survival story, a romance, and an intricately researched work of historial fiction." -- The Wall Street Journal

* "Beautifully written and deeply felt . . . An important book that deserves the widest possible readership." -- Booklist , starred review

"A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch."-- The New York Times Book Review

"A brilliant story of love and survival."--Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Wintergirls

* "Beautifully written and deeply felt...an important book that deserves the widest possible readership."-- Booklist , Starred Review


Author Notes

Ruta Sepetys is the award-winning, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy and Salt to the Sea, for which she won the 2017 Carnegie Medal. From the Hardcover edition.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Through the pained yet resilient narration of 15-year-old Lina, a gifted artist, this taut first novel tells the story of Lithuanians deported and sent to Siberian work camps by Stalin during WWII. From the start, Sepetys makes extensive use of foreshadowing to foster a palpable sense of danger, as soldiers wrench Lina's family from their home. The narrative skillfully conveys the deprivation and brutality of conditions, especially the cramped train ride, unrelenting hunger, fears about family members' safety, impossible choices, punishing weather, and constant threats facing Lina, her mother, and her younger brother. Flashbacks, triggered like blasts of memory by words and events, reveal Lina's life before and lay groundwork for the coming removal. Lina's romance with fellow captive Andrius builds slowly and believably, balancing some of the horror. A harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

In 1939, the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic nations, which then disappeared from maps, not to reappear until 1990. Teachers, librarians, musicians, artists, writers, business owners, doctors, lawyers, and servicemen were considered anti-Soviet and sent into exile. Esther Hautzig told this story in her seminal 1968 memoir The Endless Steppe; Sepetys's even starker novel is more extreme in its depiction of deprivation and suffering. When in June 1941 the Soviet secret police show up at fifteen-year-old Lina Vilkas's Lithuania home and throw Lina, her younger brother, and their mother onto a train, a decade-long nightmare begins. "Like matchsticks in a small box," forty-six people were crammed into their car, "a cage on wheels, maybe a rolling coffin" bound for the vast nothingness of Siberia. So begins a human drama calling forth the best and worst of human behaviors -- courage, anger, fear, confusion, little kindnesses, and egregious selfishness. The bald man with the broken leg whines and complains, while the librarian organizes the children and tells stories, and all along the way Lina's mother keeps her family together. Sepetys creates complicated characters: there's more to the bald man than whining and complaining, and the young NKVD guard Nikolai proves not to be the monster Lina considers him. Two excellent maps and an informative author's note round out a haunting chronicle, demonstrating that even in the heart of darkness "love is the most powerful army." dean Schneider (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Sepetys' first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. In the case of 16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, this means deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Lina's great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that can she hopes be surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future. Many others are not so fortunate. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, estimates that the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. Though many continue to deny this happened, Sepetys' beautifully written and deeply felt novel proves the reality is otherwise. Hers is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. By Ruta Sepetys. (Philomel, $17.99.) This haunting novel exposes the horrors of Stalin from the perspective of a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl, evacuated to a camp in Siberia. A "superlative first novel," Linda Sue Park wrote in the Book Review. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. By Laini Taylor. (Little, Brown, $18.99.) "A breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one's true self," according to our reviewer, Chelsey Philpot, this high-speed adventure involves love between angel and demon. LEVEL UP. By Gene Luen Yang. Illustrated by Thien Pham. (First Second, $15.99.) Smart, hilarious and affecting, this graphic novel tells the story of an aspiring gastroenterologist and video game enthusiast struggling between realizing his father's dreams and understanding his own ambitions. A MONSTER CALLS. By Patrick Ness. Illustrated by Jim Kay. (Candlewick, $16.99.) Based on an idea from the late Siobhan Dowd, this novel tackles the subject of a young boy dealing with his mother's death. "Powerful medicine," our reviewer wrote, and "a potent piece of art." THE SCORPIO RACES. By Maggie Stiefvater. (Scholastic Press, $17.99.) Based on Celtic myth, this vivid and original fantasy involves magical waterhorses and two riders determined to win the annual Scorpio races. "A complex literary thriller that pumps new blood into a genre suffering from post-"Twilight' burnout," our reviewer said. MIDDLE GRADE AMELIA LOST: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. By Candace Fleming. Illustrated. (Schwartz & Wade, $18.99.) Gives children the nuanced, accurate portrait of America's famed pilot they deserve - as well as a good story, impeccably researched. DRAWING FROM MEMORY. Written and illustrated by Allen Say. (Scholastic, $17.99.) Part memoir, part graphic novel, this account from the Caldecott medalist describes how his coming of age in Japan paved his path to children's literature. EVERY THING ON IT. By Shel Silverstein. (HarperCollins, $19.99.) On par with "A Light in the Attic," this posthumous collection of 140 poems makes you miss Silverstein and his seemingly effortless but incomparably funny, touching verse all the more. THE FINGERTIPS OF DUNCAN DORFMAN. By Meg Wolitzer. (Dutton, $16.99.) A novel about the real world of championship Scrabble, with a fantastical twist. Our reviewer, Stefan Fatsis, called it an "empathetic and sometimes farcical exploration of the emotionally confusing lives of preadolescent boys and girls." HEART AND SOUL. Written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Baher & Bray/HarperCollins, $19.99.) "A grand and awe-inspiring survey of the black experience in America," Walter Dean Myers wrote in the Book Review. This is history for children on both an epic and human scale. OKAY FOR NOW. By Gary D. Schmidt. (Clarion, $16.99.) The lead from "The Wednesday Wars" returns in this tragicomic story about a struggling middle grader. Our reviewer, Richard Peck, read this book "about the healing power of art and about a boy's intellectual awakening" through "misting eyes." QUEEN OF THE FALLS. Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. (Houghton Mifflin, $18.99.) The bittersweet true story of a 62-year-old teacher who became the first person to barrel over Niagara Falls. Van Allsburg resists romanticizing the story and includes its melancholic edges, illustrated in exquisitely detailed drawings. SECRETS AT SEA. By Richard Peck. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. (Dial, $16.99.) This mouse adventure follows four siblings as they cruise to England, accompanying their husband-hunting human counterparts. "Rife with snappy asides and clever but never heavy-handed," our reviewer wrote. SERIOUSLY, NORMAN! Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka. (Michael di Capua/Scholastic, $17.95.) This humorous first novel by picture book author Raschka describes life from the perspective of a less than stellar student. "Reading it is a visual, loopy, absurdist experience," Meg Wolitzer, our reviewer, said. WONDERSTRUCK. Written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. (Scholastic, $29.99.) Telling the story of a boy who searches for his father in New York and the tale of a deaf girl in 1920s Hoboken, Selznick weaves the two into a seamless story that "teaches a respect for the past and for the power of memory to make minds," Adam Gopnik wrote in these pages. PICTURE BOOKS BLACKOUT. Written and illustrated by John Rocco. (Disney/Hyperion, $16.99.) There's no place like New York in a blackout, at least as it's depicted in this gorgeously dreamy landscape of deep midnight blues. The city comes alive after dark at the same time a family becomes aware of the comforts of home in a story about how a community and a family come together when the lights go out. GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE. BySherri Duskey Rinker. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. (Chronicle, $16.99.) A debut author and an accomplished illustrator team up in a meeting of bedtime tale and construction book. This lullaby in rhyming couplets will also be loved by girls, with its images of vehicles clasping stars and cradling teddy bears. I WANT MY HAT BACK. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick, $15.99.) A bear has lost his hat. A rabbit has stolen it. The bear finds out. From this premise, Klassen has created an inventive book that will have children scratching their heads and then laughing with glee once they "get it." Both story and bear have bite. I MUST HAVE BOBO! By Eileen Rosenthal. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. (Atheneum, $14.99.) A melodramatic boy, Willy, and a cat, Earl, both lay claim to a sock monkey. With adorable illustrations and sharp but spare text. ME . . . JANE. Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. (Little, Brown, $15.99.) Jane Goodall, the subject of this pictorial biography, and Patrick McDonnell, author and illustrator, are splendidly matched. Careful scenes captured in watercolors show how Goodall's childhood shaped her adult life. MEADOWLANDS: A Wetlands Survival Story. Written and illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99.) Meticulously researched and expertly drawn, "Meadowlands" is impassioned without being preachy. A fine introduction to our role in environmental devastation and protection. MY NAME IS ELIZABETH. By Annika Dunklee. Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. (Kids Can Press, $14.95.) The indignity and aggravation of the mispronounced and mistakenly abbreviated name! Elizabeth, a feisty and outspoken girl, addresses those who misaddress her in this artfully drawn tale. OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW. By Kate Messner. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. (Chronicle, $16.99.) A girl and her father are skiing when a red squirrel darts below the snow. Quiet, gentle and incomparably lovely, this book reveals a wintertime world under the surface. POMELO BEGINS TO GROW. By Ramona Bodescu. Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Translated by Claudia Bedrick. (Enchanted Lion, $16.95.) A baby elephant's growth spurt also spurs worries. "Funny, smart and idiosyncratic, graceful and intuitive in a way that feels as much dreamed as written," our reviewer, Bruce Handy, said. SAMANTHA ON A ROLL. By Linda Ashman. Illustrated by Christine Davenier. (Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.99.) A girl, a pair of new roller skates, a preoccupied parent. This ode to the glorious adventures - if also perils - of benign neglect pairs Ashman's perfectly rhymed text with Davenier's animated, humorous drawings.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-When teenager Lina and her family are ripped from their home in 1940s Lithuania, it's only the beginning of a terrible journey that will take her to a labor camp in Siberia as part of Stalin's forced relocation program. Moving, edifying, and quietly beautiful, Sepetys's well-researched novel is an exquisite look at a devastating atrocity. (Mar.) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Guardian Review

"We had become bottom-feeders, living off filth and rot." The transformation from daughter of a Lithuanian university provost into a starving scavenger, accustomed to witnessing acts of unimaginable cruelty, worked half to death and stripped of all dignity, takes a matter of weeks. Ruta Sepetys gives readers no more time to prepare themselves for the horrors of the work camp than the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) give 15-year-old Lina and her family time to pack their suitcases. "They took me in my nightgown" is the first line of this remarkable debut. Based on first-hand accounts, Sepetys's YA novel charts an immense journey, in every sense, from a middle-class home in Lithuania to a gulag at Trofimovsk in the Arctic Circle. The bare facts about the genocide perpetrated by Stalin are nigh on impossible to take in. On the other hand, have a lucid 15-year old describe a Siberian winter, or how the NKVD waited outside a hospital for the next victim's umbilical cord to be cut, then we can glimpse something of what occurred. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia disappeared off the map in 1940 and did not reappear until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. When the survivors of the work camps were finally allowed home (most perished), the permanent, threatening presence of the KGB ensured that their stories could not be told. Lina documents her experiences in words and drawings and buries them in a jar hoping that her testimony will eventually see the light of day. The storyteller who wishes to bring such a past to life, "make it real" by fictionalising it, clearly shoulders an immense responsibility. Sepetys draws heavily on the heartbreaking testimony of survivors. She must have faced some tough narrative choices. Is it your duty, for example, when writing for a teenage audience, to sift through the cinders of such a hell to find meaning and consolation in some form? For Sepetys love certainly redeems: love of country, love of family, love of fellow survivor. And it is in the small gestures that it finds its expression: beet smuggled in underwear under the gaze of the guards, sharing rations with strangers, asking the name of one's tormentor. Readers will inevitably compare Lina's (albeit fictional) first-person narration with that of Anne Frank: the clear-sighted intelligence and courage, the focus on the minutiae of life, the fears and the foibles of one's fellow human beings. A major difference is that we read Frank's words knowing that she is doomed. Lina, however, tells us at the outset that "It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade." So the tension works differently here: what new horrors will Lina have to bear? The fluid narrative is compelling yet restrained. The horrors of the cattle trucks and the gulag, the cruelty of the Soviet guards, are all there. Minor characters are memorably and vividly drawn, and the first half of the book, in particular, roars along. Dr Johnson wrote that the only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it. Hard to read but even harder to stop reading, there is no doubt into which category this tremendous first novel belongs. Linda Buckley-Archer's Time Quake trilogy is published by Simon & Schuster. To order Between Shades of Gray for pounds 5.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop - Linda Buckley-Archer "We had become bottom-feeders, living off filth and rot." The transformation from daughter of a Lithuanian university provost into a starving scavenger, accustomed to witnessing acts of unimaginable cruelty, worked half to death and stripped of all dignity, takes a matter of weeks. Ruta Sepetys gives readers no more time to prepare themselves for the horrors of the work camp than the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) give 15-year-old Lina and her family time to pack their suitcases. "They took me in my nightgown" is the first line of this remarkable debut. Readers will inevitably compare Lina's (albeit fictional) first-person narration with that of Anne Frank: the clear-sighted intelligence and courage, the focus on the minutiae of life, the fears and the foibles of one's fellow human beings. A major difference is that we read Frank's words knowing that she is doomed. Lina, however, tells us at the outset that "It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade." So the tension works differently here: what new horrors will Lina have to bear? - Linda Buckley-Archer.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1: They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there--family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape. We were taken. June 14, 1941. I had changed into my nightgown and settled in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday. The evening breeze floated through the open window over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana. It wasn't a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying. "Mother," said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through the crack in his door, "are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down." Mother's head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. "Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won't let anyone break down our door." The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother's honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile. Loud voices thundered from the foyer. "NKVD!" whispered Jonas, growing pale. "Tadas said they took his neighbors away in a truck. They're arresting people." "No. Not here," I replied. The Soviet secret police had no business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our passports in his hand. "We need more time. We'll be ready in the morning," Mother said. "Twenty minutes--or you won't live to see morning," said the officer. "Please, lower your voice. I have children," whispered Mother. "Twenty minutes," the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot. We were about to become cigarettes. Excerpted from Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.