This book was in my pile for a long time and I would pick it up, re-read the back, and then set it down. As I have written about before I have a hard time reading more WWII books, it is just too much sadness and cruelty for me. And yet, this book kept popping up in conversation and the history geek in me kept pulling me toward it. I knew nothing about this deportation of people, how could that be?
The book catches you right away as the main character is arrested along with her family by the Soviet soldiers rushing into their house. Lina hurriedly packs her suitcase, leaving the bread that appeared on her windowsill, thinking that this will all soon be cleared up. Little does she know that her nightmare has just begun. I loved this book’s honesty, I loved how it described but didn’t have to go into the gory details to hook you, I loved how enraged I felt at the crime against these people. This book is real history, not a doctored version fancied for us. While Lina is not real, her story and the story of the 1,000s of people arrested with her are true. Never discussed, never shared – until now.
Bottom line: Perfect for any 5th grader who loves war history or historical fiction, it is mature though in its depiction of violence.
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.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.