Page Count: 344
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
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.
Let me just start this review out by thanking Shannon for sending me a copy of it. I am grateful to get a chance to read this book, so thank you.
Now, onto the review.
Between Shades of Gray was a novel that, for a bit, I honestly had no clue what it was about. The cover, while I do like it, now that it makes sense, made it seem like a contemporary novel, which I'm not too into. After reading seeing it on Goodreads and figuring out what it was actually about, I'd wanted to read it.
Lina, the main character, is a sixteen year old girl who dreams of being an artist. Beyond that, she's brave. She shows this unfathomable courage, I think, even when she's afraid. Lina, her brother, Jonas, and her mother, Elena are sent to work camps. She's constantly surrounded by death and sickness and sorrow, but Lina never breaks. She hurts, as any normal person would, but she refused to let her captors break her. I admire her for that, because it takes more strength than I think a lot of us have.
Something that I have always been a fan of is history. It's likely my second favorite subject, under English, because, unlike everything else, it tells a story. I'm that kid who can spend an hour online, reading articles about something historical that she just meant to google briefly. Perhaps that's why I was a fan of this one. I don't know.
It is such a raw book. I don't use the term raw lightly here. It's a sad book, but it's something that should be read, I think. Deaths are frequent in this book, as is abuse and hatred. It's a gritty book in the best sense of the word, to the fullest extent. It is brutally honest and unabashedly so.
It has a favorable writing style for me. I somehow enjoyed it, but I can't really tell you exactly how it was different. Lina's point of view was nice. She was unafraid to be brash, unafraid to say things like they need to be said. It's not too flowery, nor too plain, and that fits the story. It's a perfect balance that doesn't leave you drowning in a sea of prose or clawing a blank room, if you get what I mean.
In the last 40 pages, I was crying. I was really crying. Not anything big. No blubbering, but it was the simple kind of tears that blur your vision, you know? I almost got annoyed with myself because I couldn't read from tearing up every 30 seconds.
I'm utterly at a loss for words now, really. I don't think it's a book that's supposed to be talked about, but read. It's one of those books that you really have to read it for yourself. But I do think more people should read this one. I know they have it at my county library, but I'll be requesting it at my school library when the opportunity presents itself. It seems like a book teens should read. We're not nearly informed enough, I think.
I hope you'll give this book a chance, even if it is out of your genre. It's a novel that will make you cry, but only in the best sorts of ways. It'll leave you breathless. Try it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.
Songs I listened to while reading:
(I picked this one because it started to remind me of Munch.)