Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray

4.36 (202,837 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 important book that deserves the widest possible readership."--Booklist, Starred Review
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 146 x 216 x 31mm | 448g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 0399254129
  • 9780399254123
  • 151,446

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 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
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About Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys ( is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a crossover novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.
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Rating details

202,837 ratings
4.36 out of 5 stars
5 53% (107,868)
4 34% (68,532)
3 10% (20,451)
2 2% (3,876)
1 1% (2,110)

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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