Heyy bookworms. Today I’m doing a review on Between Shades of Grey (it is actually Gray, but I’m a proud Brit so yeah) by Ruta Sepetys! The wonderful Alyssa recommended this on her blog, and if you read her review, you’ll notice that our opinions on Lina are very controversial… but that’s only inevitable because I’m Gryffindor and she’s Slytherin, but she’s a fabulous watermelon so there is only peace between us. Moving on, this really was an excellent book that just had to tug at my heart strings so that by the end of it… let’s just say I was a bit of a mess. But I’m recovering and currently not so feels-crushed that I can’t write a review for y’all.
WWII is raging and innocent people from the Baltics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are being deported to Siberia and forced to work in labour camps. Trapped between the two leading powers, Russia and Germany, the Baltics are helpless and vulnerable under Stalin’s tyrannical rule over them that the rest of the world is oblivious to. Among the deportees from Lithuania is Lina and her family, torn from their comfortable home and loving father onto a train to a fate worse than death: a life of starvation, ridicule and ruthless treatment. Lina and the deportees’ only hope is the thought of freedom, returning home, feeling the sun on their faces once again and reuniting with their loved ones. But in this world of darkness, can there be any hope, any light between the shades of grey? With nothing left to do but obey orders and stay silent, what can a passionate girl like Lina possibly do? Within the prison she is kept in, her only hope is to draw and note down everything she encounters, so that some day she can find her father and be free at last.
Wow, so this book kinda left me speechless. Well, not actually speechless because I’d probably sit in a dark hole and weep forever if I couldn’t talk. Let’s just say I had few words. I can’t remember if I actually cried at any point in the book? Maybe once or twice, but it’s not really a book to cry about. It’s more of a book that you’d swallow in one gulp and just sit for around 12 minutes just whispering ‘woah’ to yourself repeatedly. This is a really ‘woah’ book, I’ll put it that way. The history is so so terrible and it’s such a moving tale of friendship and family and love and hope and having faith even in the darkest of times. It was just… woah.
I really liked the characters. Jonas was adorable and squishy and I find it so sad just how much he was forced to mature due to everything that was happening. For a 10-year-old to go through everything he did is just so so sad. Lina and Jonas’ mother was alright, but she wasn’t my favourite of the adult characters. I liked how Miss Grybas softened throughout the book, and although it took him a lot longer to soften, the bald man was actually one of my favourite characters. Sure, he was bitter and resentful to almost everyone, but he felt very realistic and I liked that. Andrius felt like every teen boy ever, very ordinary, but his character became increasingly complex as the story continued which I enjoyed. I admit, the romance was so predictable from the minute he was introduced but he was a good character.
The writing was utterly beautiful. It reminded me a lot of The Book Thief, as the style seemed very similar. The only problem with this book was that, even though it was written in first person, Lina’s voice lacked much emotion. The writing was beautiful, but Lina seemed a bit like an angry pebble: she was very relatable, yes, but she expressed her feelings, which were pretty strong, mostly through her actions, rarely going deep enough to actually describe the complexities of the emotions occurring inside her. When there was a twist in the story or something shocking happened, I only ever saw the description of the event, hardly ever how Lina actually felt inside. Basically what I’m saying is that the book felt more like a third person narrative. The aim of first person is to really get inside the narrator’s brainforest (best word ever, I know), but for me, there wasn’t much to explore. Her brainforest was a barren land of empty with maybe a few lonely shrubs.
This book is so educational too. Before reading it, I didn’t even know that this had happened to the Baltic states. The whole situation must have been completely drowned out by the rest of the war at the time, which is why it’s so so important that we now know what really happened, even if it was so long ago. This novel is based on real memoirs told by survivors of what happened, which just makes it even more moving. I just thank the author for bringing this to light, because there really is a lot to be learned from this book, which is why you must read it immediately, or else I will grill you and eat you with BBQ sauce.
Clover count: ♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣ (8/10)