Novel: Between Shades of Gray


Bibliographical Information:

Title- Between Shades of Gray

Author- Ruta Sepetys

Genre (s): YA, Historical Fiction

Interest Age: 15 and up

Reader’s Annotation: Lina and her family are ripped from their Lithuanian home and taken to a  work camp in Siberia. She must learn to survive throughout WW II, and pray her family does as well.

Plot Summary:

We meet Lina, a 15 year old girl living in Lithuania. June 1941 her family is taken by the Soviets to live in a prison labor camp in Siberia. From the start Lina has hostility towards the soviets and even some of the people in her camp. She meets some people along the way who show her strength and courage like she has never seen. And she has also seen the worst of people. Lina shows hope and passion when the world seems to lose both. Lina works towards her freedom and seeing her Papa again, but unfortunately the harsh realities of the time period show that not everything ends up all right.

Critical Evaluation:

It’s a horrible reality of what happened during Stalin’s reign of terror, but it’s so beautifully written that it will reach hundreds of thousands of people and let it be known exactly what happened during this time. I connected with every character, including the “villain” characters and that is really rare for me. I think Ruta does an amazing job of researching the time period, and bringing to light a part of history not many know about.

Author Bio/Information:

“Ruta Sepetys (Rūta Šepetys) is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. Sepetys is considered a “crossover” novelist as her books are read by both students and adults worldwide. Her novels, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are both New York Times bestsellers, international bestsellers, and Carnegie Medal nominees. Salt to the Sea, her latest novel, was an instant bestseller and debuted at #2 on the New York Times list. Her books have won or been shortlisted for over forty book prizes, are included on over twenty state reading lists, and have been selected for several all-city read programs.

Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta attended college to study opera but instead graduated with a degree in International Finance. Prior to publishing her first novel, she spent twenty years in the music industry helping artists and songwriters distill story through song” (“About”, n.d.).

Ties to Curriculum Units: World War II, History

Booktalking Ideas:

How does Lina have the courage to go through what she did?

What do you feel about learning a new part of history?

Challenging Issues:

I don’t see any challenging issues occurring except for maybe some weariness about some violence that occurs and the conditions Lina and her family have to endure. But I will explain that it is a novel about WW II and it is historically accurate to what was happening to families like Lina’s at the time.


About. (n.d.) Ruta Sepetys. Retrieved from


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