Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Have you ever wondered what human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s life was worth a pocket watch.
This is a haunting and compelling portrayal of humanity during the Second World War. Sparks of life, small acts of kindness and decency, shine through between layer upon layer of darkness showing just how important these are to the survival of humanity.
The occasional flash-backs create an eerie glimpse of normal pre-war life, so far removed from the brutal reality of survival in unbelievable harshness.
Ruta Sepetys has undertaken intensive research to bring to life a largely unknown element of this highly publicised war – the plight of the Baltic people (of the Northern European counties: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) in the hands of the Soviet Union.
Recommended age: 13+
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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. — Extract from Goodreads.com