Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Review

Who would’ve thought I’d find myself reading historical fiction?

It's 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin's extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, 

risking everything to save her family. It's a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

I am not usually one to read historical fiction but I picked up Between Shades of Gray because I was such a big fan of Salt to the Sea. After finishing it, I didn’t enjoy Between Shades of Gray as much as Salt to the Sea (which was one of favorites of last year), but I still really liked it.

I love Ruta Sepetys’s novels because they feel real. This seems obvious since they are historical fiction novels and based on true events, but I feel, since Ruta Sepetys has a close connection to these events through her family, it seems more personal. When these novels feel real, it makes me care more about the characters because I know real people went through this. This gives me a reason to always want to keep reading and learn more about these time periods.

Between Shades of Gray throws the reader into the story from the first page, meaning that you doesn’t really get to know Lina until later in the novel. Sepetys does this through small inserts throughout the novel of Lina’s life before being deported. This allows you to better under Lina’s life, background, and passions. By including those inserts and stories from Lina’s childhood you learn more about her and feel closer to her character, making it even sadder when bad things happen to her.

As to be expected, there are many heartbreaking moments in Between Shades of Gray. One in particular came mostly unexpected towards the end of the novel. I really appreciated the moment because it highlighted that not everything in life is black and white. It showed that everyone has their own story and reasons for their actions and you can’t always correctly judge a person until you get to truly know them. I’m not going to speak any more about this moment, but you’ll know when you read it.

Overall, I’ve loved both of Ruta Sepetys’s books! She makes historical fiction realistic and personal. I highly recommend both Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray. Even if you aren’t a big fan of historical fiction, check these books out, they’re great!

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