Recommended age: Teenage

Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys

One night a family are disturbed by soldiers. They are taken from their home and thrown onto a train with many others, crammed into cattle trucks. They are leaving Lithuania and are being deported by the Soviets to Siberia at the beginning of the Second World War.

The story is told by 15-year-old Lina. Her father is put on another train and disappears, sent to his death. Lina is sent with her younger brother and mother, first to a labour camp and then to the Arctic. She fights for her life, creating drawings to record all that she endures. These sketches she leaves in a glass jar in the hope that one day someone will discover what has been done to them.

This is a beautiful book despite its subject being so horrific and tragic. It is moving and surprisingly uplifting. The strength of good, noble people, with their wise, selfless actions and their desire to show love and kindness in the face of terrible cruelty, is brought to the fore. It is also an invaluable guide to a piece of history which many people were instructed never to speak about, and of which many more have been ignorant.

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys