Reviews for Between Shades of Gray

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

Gr 9 Up--It is 1941 and 15-year-old Lina and her family are arrested by the secret police and deported from Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Bound for Siberia, they travel across Europe and Asia in an overcrowded train car marked "Thieves and Prostitutes." After being separated from her father, Lina documents her experiences through drawings and letters that she passes along, hoping that they will somehow reach him. The journey takes Lina, her brother Jonas, and her mother over the Ural Mountains to a labor camp in Altai where they spend ten months. They are then moved to Trofimovsk, North Pole, where they are imprisoned indefinitely. Ruta Sepetys's excellent novel (Philomel, 2011) depicts a lesser-known aspect of World War II and its impact on the citizens of the Baltic States. Lina is a compelling protagonist, and her horrific experiences are based on the author's own family history. Emily Klein is more adept at voicing Lina's internal narration than the dialogue. For example, some characters sound jarringly robust even in the direst situations. Flashbacks to Lina's life before the deportation appear in italics in the print version, but because Klein doesn't vary her tone or tempo, it's difficult for listeners to determine when they begin and end. Also, the print edition includes helpful maps. Overall, this reading is not as strong as the novel itself, though the sheer power of the story may propel listeners along with Lina on her journey.--Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA

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