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Between Shades of Gray
Cover of Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray
Borrow
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.

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 felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”—Booklist, Starred Review
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.

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 felt…an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”—Booklist, Starred Review
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    3.6
  • Lexile:
    490
  • Interest Level:
    MG+
  • Text Difficulty:
    K - 2

Recommended for you

 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1:

    They took me in my nightgown.
    Thinking back, the signs were there—family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.
    We were taken.
    June 14, 1941. I had changed into my nightgown and settled in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday.
    The evening breeze floated through the open window over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana.
    It wasn’t a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying.
    “Mother,” said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through the crack in his door, “are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down.”
    Mother’s head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. “Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won’t let anyone break down our door.”
    The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother’s honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile.
    Loud voices thundered from the foyer.
    “NKVD!” whispered Jonas, growing pale. “Tadas said they took his neighbors away in a truck. They’re arresting people.”
    “No. Not here,” I replied. The Soviet secret police had no business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our passports in his hand.
    “We need more time. We’ll be ready in the morning,” Mother said.
    “Twenty minutes—or you won’t live to see morning,” said the officer.
    “Please, lower your voice. I have children,” whispered Mother.
    “Twenty minutes,” the officer barked. He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
    We were about to become cigarettes.
Reviews-
  • DOGO Books books247 - What first drew me to the book was the snow sprinkled eyelashes on the cover. The book is about Lina, her brother, and her mother trying to survive when they have been kicked out of their home in Lithuania with only what they can carry in their suitcases. Put on a train and deported by the Russians to Siberia, along the way Lina and her family were sent to a camp where she had to farm beets. If you were too sick to work you wouldn’t get your ration (which was 300 grams a day). This book was really good. I usually don’t like books about history because they always seem like textbooks trying to be a fictional story, even though they aren’t. But it was way better than I expected, and it was totally not like a textbook. This book is one of those books that you could read more than once, like Harry Potter, you could just read it again and again.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 3, 2011
    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.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from January 15, 2011

    This bitterly sad, fluidly written historical novel tackles a topic woefully underdiscussed in English-language children's fiction: Joseph Stalin's reign of terror. On June 14th, 1941, Soviet officers arrest 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother and her mother and deport them from Lithuania to Siberia. Their crammed-full boxcar is labeled, ludicrously, "Thieves and Prostitutes." They work at a frigid gulag for eight months—hungry, filthy and brutalized by Soviet officers—before being taken to the Siberian Arctic and left without shelter. Lina doesn't know the breadth of Stalin's mass deportations of Baltic citizens, but she hears scraps of discussion about politics and World War II. Cold, starvation, exhaustion and disease (scurvy, dysentery, typhus) claim countless victims. Lina sketches urgently, passing her drawings along to other deportees, hoping they'll reach Papa in a Soviet prison. Brief flashbacks, seamlessly interwoven, illuminate Lina's sweet old life in Kaunas like flashes of light, eventually helping to reveal why the repressive, deadly regime targeted this family. Sepetys' flowing prose gently carries readers through the crushing tragedy of this tale that needs telling. (maps, timeline, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up, adult)

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2011

    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

    Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from February 1, 2011
    Grades 7-12 *Starred Review* Sepetys first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. In the case of 16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, this means deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Linas great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that canshe hopesbe surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future. Many others are not so fortunate. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, estimates that the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. Though many continue to deny this happened, Sepetys beautifully written and deeply felt novel proves the reality is otherwise. Hers is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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