Review: Between Shades of Gray

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: YA, Historical fiction
Rating: 3/5

I thought the subject matter of this book was really interesting - rather than telling the story of displaced Jews in Nazi Germany (as most World War II stories usually do), this one covers the displacement of Lithuanians in Stalinist Russia. I didn't know much about this side of World War II; we never really learned about how various groups were victimized by the social Darwinism that spawned from Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Although it was interesting to learn about this side of history, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

 The main character, Lina, is an artist. She's "gifted" at drawing and her whole family is proud of her ability. Little does she know that this talent will end up being a survival skill...

Lina's family is split apart and taken from their home by force; Lina doesn't understand what her family has done to deserve it. She meets many other displaced Lithuanians and sees both the best and the worst in people as they are taken farther and farther away from their civilized, comfortable lives. While some of the scenes in this book where horrifying, I felt like everything was a bit watered down because of Lina's self-centered and naive perspective. She didn't really get to know other characters very well, and thus neither did the reader. Lina doesn't do much at all; she's very dependent on her mother for her survival.

 I did appreciate the "shades of gray" in the cast of characters, because there were a bunch of people that you couldn't really call "good" or "bad." Another factor that bugged me a bit were the flashbacks of life before the displacement. Some memories were poignant, but others didn't really add to the story for me and they were just distracting. Although I didn't especially like this book, I would still recommend it as an eye-opening look into a side of World War II that isn't discussed very often.


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