Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books, 2011. 344 pgs. Teen fiction
In 1941, Lina and her family are living in Lithuania, which has been invaded by Stalin's Soviets. After her father disappears, Lina, her brother and mother are rounded up, forced onto a train, and taken to a labor camp where they live in horrible conditions, with little food, terrible captors, and the constant worry about where their father is and if they will ever be reunited. Lina, an artist, draws pictures of their experiences so that someday, she'll be able to share them with the world, and also tries to find some way to contact her father.
Wow! This book is a powerful look at a time period that I knew nothing about. I vaguely knew that the Soviet Union had labor camps and people were lost in the system for years, but this book took that little knowledge and made it real. Although it's fiction, the situations and circumstances portrayed provide an eye-opening look at a very real, terrible time in history. With such an intense topic wrapped into gripping writing, there's not much more I could ask from the book. I do ask publishers and authors to provide more books, both fiction and nonfiction, on this topic for teen readers.
5 stars. Clean read. (There might be a little language, and a little bit of realistic vulgarity in how the Soviets talk about and to the captured women.)