Review of the Shades

Nicole Long, Staff Writer/Section Editor

“They took me in my nightgown.” Between Shades of Gray is an historical fiction novel written by Ruta Sepetys. This book takes the perspective of a fifteen-year-old girl, whose family, including her, was taken by Soviet officers while Stalin was in power. Between Shades of Gray goes into depth with the truth about what really happened to the people who were taken and sold as slaves. I especially like this book because it is a novel that was written based upon real stories of survivors from those slave camps. It was also so beautifully creative, that it drew me in the second I began.

Between Shades of Gray takes place in 1941 and stars a young artist named Lina Vilkas. Lina, along with her family, was taken from their home in Lithuania, just as many others were taken from their homes in Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and many other countries. After being taken, these masses were herded into cattle cars and traveled for months in the direction of Serbia. After some time passed, the groups of people were separated into sections and sent to their first slave camps. Lina and her family, being one of the last groups, were sent to Altai to farm for beets and potatoes, when they found out about the list. That list consisted of a distinguished select of individuals, who had to be shipped off to another camp to work on a twenty-five year sentence in below-freezing temperatures. Lina’s family was on that list.

Throughout all of this struggle, Lina had been leaving drawings and clues for her father, who was put in a prison before Lina’s family went to their camps. When Lina had been imprisoned in the camp for over twelve years, she was freed and chose to bury a box, full of her drawings, that would be dug up by future generations. When that box was opened, that’s when the truth was revealed.

The author of this book managed to capture every creative thread ever imagined, and weaved them into this book. She was very descriptive when giving details about people and backgrounds. The book is very beautifully written, and it gives me great pleasure to read it. Between Shades of Gray was so full of metaphors and similes, that it surprised me the first time I read it, for it was very clever; “…sadness so deep, like your very core has been hollowed.” I love the way Ruta entwined the stories given to her when she interviewed different survivors of the slave camps. Between Shades of Gray isn’t just about history, and it isn’t just fiction; it’s a mix of both, and was expressed so well, that it draws you in. I would recommend this book to any of those who love to learn about our world’s history and have it entwined into a fictional novel.