Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray

4.36 (107,359 ratings by Goodreads)
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"Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both." --The Washington Post 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. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart. Praise for BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY: "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 important book that deserves the widest possible readership."--Booklist, Starred Review A New York Times Bestseller
An International Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book of 2011
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
The iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel
The #1 Book on the Spring 2011 IndieNext List
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
A Booklist Best Book of 2011
A Kirkus Best Book of 2011
2012 IRA Children's and Young Adults Book Award for Young Adult Fiction
2012 Indies Choice Young Adult Book of the Year
A Carnegie Medal Finalist
A William C. Morris Finalist
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 344 pages
  • 144.78 x 213.36 x 33.02mm | 476.27g
  • Philomel Books
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Maps
  • 0399254129
  • 9780399254123
  • 120,646

Review quote

Praise for "Between Shades of Gray"
A superlative first novel. A hefty emotional punch. --"The New York Times Book Review"
Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both. --"The Washington Post"
"Beautiful a superb though grueling novel. --""The Wall Street Journal""
An eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart. --"Los Angeles Times"
An engrossing and poignant story of the fortitude of the human spirit in a dark time in Lithuanian history. --"Associated Press"
Brave Lina is a heroine young and old readers can believe in. "--Entertainment Weekly"
Please read this small window into a tragedy. "--NPR"
Beautifully written and researched, it captures the devastation of war while celebrating the will to survive. "--Family Circle"
* A harrowing page-turner. --"Publishers Weekly," starred review
* A gripping story. --"School Library Journal," starred review
* Bitterly sad, fluidly written Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers. --"Kirkus," starred review
* "Beautifully written and deeply felt an important book that deserves the widest possible readership. "--Booklist," starred review
A haunting chronicle, demonstrating that even in the heart of darkness love is the most powerful army.' --The Horn Book Magazine
Stalin deported and murdered millions, but he could not destroy the seeds of memory, compassion, and art that they left behind. From those seeds, Ruta Septeys has crafted a brilliant story of love and survival that will keep their memory alive for generations to come. --Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of "Speak "and "Wintergirls"
In terrifying detail, Ruta Sepetys re-creates World War II coming of age all too timely today. "Between Shades of Gray" is a document long overdue. --Richard Peck, Newbery Award winning author of "A Year Down Yonder"
"Between Shades of Gray" is a story of astonishing force. I feel grateful for a writer like Ruta Sepetys who bravely tells the hard story of what happens to the innocent when world leaders and their minions choose hate and oppression. Beautiful and unforgettable. --Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Newbery Honor winning author of "Hitler Youth "
Sepetys has penned a harrowing and heartbreaking novel. Beautifully written and important. --Harlan Coben, international bestselling author of "Shelter"
Ruta Sepetys"
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About Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Septeys is the multi-award-winning author of the critically acclaimed New York Times and international bestseller Between Shades of Gray. Born and raised in Michigan, Ruta grew up in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Her second novel, Out of the Easy, was published to rave reviews and high acclaim in February 2013. Ruta lives with her husband in Tennessee. You can visit Ruta online at, and follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys. For more information, please visit: and
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Rating details

107,359 ratings
4.36 out of 5 stars
5 53% (56,662)
4 34% (36,541)
3 10% (11,257)
2 2% (1,995)
1 1% (904)

Our customer reviews

FIRST SENTENCE: They took me in my nightgown. This book could be the next "Diary of Anne Frank", a book and play that I read and saw when I was a pre-teen, and then again later in life. These are the sorts of events that we SHOULD learn about in school, in order to keep us from repeating the same types of crimes against humanity. I am extremely grateful to Ms. Septys for writing this story and bringing to light a dark period of time for the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), that not many know about. It is 1941, and Russia is marching across the land, annexing new countries by force and instituting Stalin's philosophies. In a country where being an intellectual is now a crime, many academics, and those suspected of original thinking, are rounded up, placed in rail cars, and "repatriated", either sold as slaves or put to work on "collective farms", many in the cold of Siberia, where the work is hard, rations are scarce, disease rages, firewood has to be stolen, and people die and are killed by the NKVD (Russian secret police) without repercussion. The novel takes you on a journey with Lina Vilkas, a talented 15-year-old artist, whose father Kostas is a university provost. Her loving family is rounded out by her mother Elena, elegant and beautiful, and her 10-year-old brother Jonas, a sweet-natured, fun-loving boy. Their nightmare begins on a night when Kostas didn't return home, and the NKVD pounds on the door, giving them 20 minutes to pack and leave. Their mother, having anticipated this eventuality, has sewn valuables into the lining of her coat, and spends some of the prep time breaking her other valued possessions to keep them out of Soviet hands. The truck they are loaded into waits for a while in front of a hospital. A mother is giving birth, and she and her newborn are taken directly afterward and placed in the truck with the 15 already there. As groups are loaded into boxcars labeled "thieves and prostitutes", the long, cold, and deadly journey begins, spanning years with no relief and ever-increasing hardship. Lina's story is an amalgamation of many of the stories of the survivors of this period of time. Even after 10-15 years of forced labor, death, loss of family and possessions, when the survivors eventually returned to their homeland, they were forbidden to speak of what had happened to them. Ms. Sepetys brings their stories to vivid life, and even as your heart aches, there is hope engendered on these pages. A hope that these stories will put an end to oppression and brutality ... and a hope that we never forget the consequences of such acts. An emotionally powerful, beautifully-wrought novel, Between Shades of Gray should be on everyone's reading list. QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy): The priest looked up, flung oil, and made the sign of the cross as our train rolled away. He was issuing last rites. I heard a scream and saw the limp body of a child heaved out into the mud. A woman tried to jump out after the corpse. She was smashed in the face by the butt of a rifle. I saw another body thrown out. Death had begun to gather a crop. The next day, the guards dragged her stiff body out of the train. Her mother jumped down after her, crying. A gunshot fired. A thud hit the dirt. A grieving mother was an more
by Julie Smith
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