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.
My Thoughts: I am really glad that these historical events are getting some attention and I hope that it will lead to further discussion of these events among young people. I wrote my master's thesis on gulag (Soviet labor camp) literature and as part of my research I had to study Stalin and his atrocities extensively. Most young people know about the Holocaust but few know about the horrors inflicted by Stalin upon his own people as well as the peoples he tried to incorporate into the USSR. This book discusses the forced deportations of the Lithuanian people and how it impacted a young girl and her family. I thought the story was beautifully written and Lina was a great character. I loved how she used art as a way to deal with, and document, the events happening to her and around her. All of the characters were very vividly written and I could easily picture each one with their different personalities. I did think that the story might have needed a little more background given to the reader, it started abruptly and seemed to end that way as well. I got the feeling that this book was meant to be incorporated into a larger lesson. It would definitely be a great book for teenagers to read in school but they would more than likely need some sort of background information about Stalin and the politics of the USSR in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This was a very good book and I am really glad that it has become as popular as it has. 4 stars.