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Between Shades of Gray
Contributor(s): Sepetys, Ruta

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ISBN: 014242059X     ISBN-13: 9780142420591
Publisher: Speak
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Binding Type: Paperback - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: April 2012
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Annotation: In 1941, Lina and her family are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Labor camps; Fiction.
Survival; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: bl2012009971
Lexile Measure: 490
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 8.50" H x 5.50" W x 1.00" (0.75 lbs) 352 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 142569
Reading Level: 3.6   Interest Level: Middle Grades   Point Value: 9.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q52906
Reading Level: 3.6   Interest Level: Grades 9-12   Point Value: 16.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): IV>Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Between Shades of Gray is her first novel.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall)
In 1941 Lithuania, the Soviet secret police show up at fifteen-year-old Lina Vilkas's home. They throw Lina, her younger brother, and their mother onto a train bound for Siberia, beginning a decade-long nightmare. Sepetys creates complicated characters in her story of deprivation and suffering. Two excellent maps and an informative author's note round out this haunting chronicle. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #3)
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 Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2011 January #1)

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.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2011 March)

Gr 8 Up—This novel is based on extensive research and inspired by the author's family background. Told by 15-year-old Lina, a Lithuanian teen with penetrating insight and vast artistic ability, it is a gruesome tale of the deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia starting in 1939. During her 12 years there, Lina, a strong, determined character, chronicles her experiences through writings and drawings. She willingly takes chances to communicate with her imprisoned father and to improve her family's existence in inhuman conditions. Desperation, fear, and the survival instinct motivate many of the characters to make difficult compromises. Andrius, who becomes Lina's love interest, watches as his mother prostitutes herself with the officers in order to gain food for her son and others. To ward off starvation, many sign untrue confessions of guilt as traitors, thereby accepting 25-year sentences. Those who refuse, like Lina, her younger brother, and their mother, live on meager bread rations given only for the physical work they are able to perform. This is a grim tale of suffering and death, but one that needs telling. Mention is made of some Lithuanians' collaboration with the Nazis, but for the most part the deportees were simply caught in a political web. Unrelenting sadness permeates this novel, but there are uplifting moments when the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for compassion take over. This is a gripping story that gives young people a window into a shameful, but likely unfamiliar history.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

[Page 170]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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