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review 2018-04-29 07:50
Heart-wrenching book about a young Lithuanian girl during WWII; describes a forgotten chapter we should not rush to forget
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

I read this as one of the picks for the Litsy (Team YA) Postal Book Club I am in, and am glad it was chosen, even though I often do not choose historical fiction much these days to read. Especially when I expect it to bring me to tears (or remind me how little I know about how the Soviets and Stalin played their dastardly part in WWII).

Given that this book is several years old now, has won countless awards, and it seems as though everyone else who reads YA has already read it, I barely need to say much about the premise.

Young Lina is deported by the Soviets from Lithuania, along with her brother and mother, but her father gets separated from them to elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The book tells of their long long train ride bringing them to outer Siberia and the horrific trials that her family and other deportees go through. They are emblematic of a past that has been covered up and forgotten among war stories, probably due to so many other horrors (particularly due to Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust).

What Sepetys has written here though, is very relatable account, that I think many younger readers will be drawn to, and have been already; Lina develops a relationship with a teenage boy while deported, has the regular range of emotions you would expect from a teenager, and her love for her family, especially her missing Papa, is fierce.

And while I did not expect the full horrific descriptions I might see in an adult novel on this matter (for example, deaths, burials, etc.), there is enough here to make the reader feel angry, revolted, and incredibly heartbroken at many things that went on.

Since this novel is based on actual people and events (and Sepetys mentions the research and journeys she went on at the end), it is especially thought-provoking and meaningful. There were so very many people affected by the first and second world wars, particularly across Europe, I can hardly imagine how many individual stories like this exist. At least go and read one of them and remember what happened.

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text 2018-04-27 16:22
Blog Post #4
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier

Part 1:

I have recently finished The Night Gardener Jonathan Auxier.  At first I though I might not like it since I generally read historical or realistic fiction, but I actually really enjoyed it.  I found myself actively visualizing and predicting.  Although I loved the actual story, I was not a huge fan of Jonathan Auxier's writing style.  At times where there was a lot of action, I found it difficult to keep up with what exactly was going on.  This is one of those books where you have to read closely to be able to really comprehend.  Overall, I enjoyed this particular book, but I don't plan on reading more from that author.

Part 2:

As Ruta Sepetys as our author, I think we both feel that her writing style is very unique and powerful.  I have also noticed that you have really analyzed the characters. I must say that Sepetys creates such fascinating characters that you generally either love or hate.  There is actually a really interesting character in Between Shades of Gray that I have mixed feelings about.  He is mostly referred to as "the bald man."  At the beginning, I strongly disliked the bald man because he is extremely grouchy and inconsiderate.  He constantly scared the children by talking of how they are all going to die.  Although he remained grumpy throughout the novel, I realized that he actually did have good intentions.  For instance, he have his ration of bread to Lina's sick mother.  I kinda love it, but also hate it when an author makes a character very complex because I have trouble deciding whether I like the character or not.  Sepety's characters' personalities are not always just black and white, sometimes they are shades of gray.  I wonder if that is part of why she chose the title Between Shades of Gray.  Maybe she wanted to emphasize the idea that although World War II was full of terrible people and awful times, there were also people like Lina's mother who fought for a cause and showed immense love.  I hope you are enjoying reading Ruta Sepetys.

Part 3:

Booklikes is a useful site for finding books you want to read. I think the best way to discover new books using Booklikes is to search a keyword (author, genre, etc.) and explore the results.  With this method, I have discovered the book Let it Snow by John Green which I have not read yet, but I am planning to.  

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text 2018-04-24 21:35
Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

 A lot of details and concepts in Between Shades of Gray give insight into Ruta Sepetys's life.  For instance, she is Lithuanian and is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee.  This surely explains why she made Lina and her family Lithuanian.  Also, Sepetys was raised in a family of talented artists, readers, and musicians.  This could be why she chose to make Lina an artist.  I really like how she incorporates her own interests and background into her characters.  I found on Ruta Sepetys's website that she is a "seeker of lost stories."  This is certainly reflected in her novel.  Between Shades of Gray tells the story that is so important, but so overlooked.  Most people know about the Holocaust and how the Nazis forced Jewish people in camps, but fewer people are aware of the Soviets deporting people to labor camps during the same time frame.  Sepetys could have written about the Holocaust, but she chose to bring insight into a little-known event.  Ruta Sepetys ultimately tells beautiful stories while including details from her own life.

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quote 2018-04-16 16:21
"Mother pulled a bundle of rubles from her pocket and exposed it slightly to the officer. He reached for it and then said something to Mother, motioning with his head. Her hand flew up and ripped the amber pendant right from her neck and pressed it into the NKVD's hand. He didn't seem to be satisfied. Mother continued to speak in Russian and pulled a pocket watch from her coat. I knew that watch. It was her father's and had his name engraved in the soft gold on the back. The officer snatched the watch, let go of Jonas, and started yelling at the people next to us.
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch" (Sepetys 26-27).
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

I think this quote is really significant because it emphasizes how the NKVD do not see any value in the lives of their victims.  They do not stop to consider that these people are mothers and fathers and children.  They only are concerned with their own comfort.  

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review 2017-09-12 00:00
Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys This story has tons of feels. It's about when Stalin was invading countries. The author's note speaks about how everyone knows of Hitler, but many don't know that Stalin was doing horrible things. Because of how Russia was communist until the 90's people weren't allowed to talk about it before so it isn't as known. Anyways, the Lithuanian people in the story were taken from their homes and loaded into railroad cars. Many died during the trip. It was horrible. They went to work camps. Some ended up in Siberia freezing to death. Parts are heartbreaking. It focuses a lot on the relationships between the people, not just all the horrible stuff that happened.
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