Between shades of gray
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This book is phenomenal. As Americans, we often only focus on Hitler, but we never really discuss what Stalin did to the rest of Europe. This book illustrates WWII from a Lithuanian girl's point of view. The plot and characters unravel, and soon enough you'll be drawn into the book. A must read for everyone.
If you love WWll then you must read this book. Not recommended for immature readers.
I loved this book. It was very deep and compelling for a YA novel. We, as Americans, concentrate so much on Hilter and his atrocities during WWII that we often forget how truly horrific the Soviet leaders were at the time. Sure, we needed them to defeat Hitler, but did we even blink as they committed acts just as devastating? I feel like this was a part of history class that I somehow missed. I know some of the basics, but what about the detail we see in our history lessons about WWII and the Nazis? It is estimated that Stalin killed up to twenty million people during his reign! How do we just forget about that??? Needless to say, I feel like Stalin's rule was a bit overlooked in my education, and I'm grateful to Ruta Sepetys for calling attention to that.
Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and did some very extensive research before writing this story. It is a novel, and thus fiction, but it is based on real accounts and real experiences, some of which are even a part of her family's story. She is very blunt and even graphic at times in her description of the characters, the torture, and the deaths that occur. She didn't sugar coat it, even with her audience being YA readers, and I think that takes both guts and skill. This is an absolutely fantastic book, and it would be a great counterpart to a history or literature class (*hint hint* all of you teachers out there!). There is so much to be learned about these people that we seem to have forgotten or written off as unimportant. Sepetys weaves her story full of sections that will make you cry and laugh and swoon and curse. It is beautifully written and comes very highly recommended (by me!).
Overall, 5 out of 5 hearts.
Opens up a historical era. It may be written for teens but it was well-written and engrossing to me as an adult who enjoys learning more about recent history.
My book club picked this book and I did not want to start a depressing book full of atrocities that actually happened to real people. But I started it and was quickly drawn in by the complex characters and mysteries within the plot. I loved the author's use of flashbacks to normal times which provided a great contrast to remind you how truly awful the camps were. The themes of love, hope, and forgiveness weave through the story and carry the reader through the horrific realities people suffered. Outstanding book.
I had such an adventure when reading this book. Through the heartbreak and loss and even hope, you are moving through the Siberian landscape with Lina, trying to survive the wrath of the Soviets. If you like historical fiction, you'll like this book!
I've read many books about the Holocaust but not much about this terrible time in Russia's history. It really opened my eyes to aspects of history I was unfamiliar with. It was tragic.
This book disconcerted me at a very deep level. I have read a great deal of GULag literature - coming across this work, intended for youth, troubles me - I'm not sure I would put in the hands of anyone below college who has the mental tools to deal with the suffering within.
(I love this book even more after hearing Ruta Sepetys talk in January 2014 about how it came to be.)
"It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar stir your deepest well of human compassion. I hope they prompt you to do something, to tell someone. Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil is never allowed to repeat itself." (P 338)
This is a story about hardship, sacrifice, love, survival.
About 25 years ago, I had a friend from Estonia. She was much older than I - she'd been born in a camp at the end of WW2. If I recall correctly, it was a displaced persons camp (not a forced labor camp), and they emigrated to the US after the war. But perhaps their experience during the war was as miserable as what we read about in this book. Malle did not tell me much about it; perhaps she didn't even know. I figured it was awful (only knowing of German concentration camps). I don't like to pry, so I don't ask questions. I didn't know to ask. But after reading this, all I can think of is Malle's family. And her husband's. Wow. What did they go through? I'm so sorry that I didn't know to ask, to honor their sacrifice. The world turned its back, and we're doing it again for other parts of the world. We always do. We are pathetic.
I can't imagine how people like Ivanov believe what they are spouting: "you are pigs, no wonder you are dying." But yet don't our soldiers (all soldiers) do the same? At least Kretzsky recognized their humanity and had the guts to hate himself for what he was doing.
Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Reads 2014
I read this book in school. I think it is important because it provides insight into something in our history that many people don't know about. The book is well written and shares an important story.
This book was brilliant, moving, educational, and thought-provoking. It is the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Reads book for 2013, and should be on nearly everyone's To Read list.
It tells a well-researched fictional story of a 15 year old Lithuanian girl who, with her family, was taken by the Soviets and forced into work camps in Siberia. Her art and her mother's belief in people's innate goodness are her lifelines.
This story is truthful and heartbreaking. It has won a huge list of awards, and I can see why. Every time I put it down, I was looking for another opportunity to pick it back up. Absolutely, whole-heartedly recommended.
This book is a good reminder that countries taken by the USSR had people put away in work camps who weren't freed at the end of WW II.
I was not able to read this book before the Author's visit, but it was wonderful. I had no idea of the sort of things that the Soviets were doing while we were allied with them during WWII. There were many disturbing things that happened/were done. It was not a feel good book, but I'm glad that I read it.
This book starts at Lithuania, the day Lina (the main character) and her family get taken by the NKVD, or the soviet secret police. They are ordered to get on a dirty and cramped train car. A rumor starts that they are apparently heading towards Siberia, a location 4,747 kilometers away. During this period of time, Lina's brother, Jonas, gets scurvy from vitamin c deficiency, and many other people get diseased and/or die just from the unsanitary conditions of the NKVD. This book shows just how much the people that got taken from their families by Stalin went through.
This is one of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time. It's extremely intriguing, although definitely not a book that makes you happy. I think that Ms. Sepetys' second book, Out of the Easy, is superior, but this book is still absolutely brilliant.
Definitely not an upper, but so good - This is a different war than World War II, and one I was not aware of - will be looking for more books similar.
Absolutely loved this book! I could not put it down. With all the suspense this fiction story came to life, and I could feel every bit catharsis each character had.
Reading the two A2Y finalists, I could not help comparing the two, and by that measure alone, this one falls very short. Yes, it is a sad story, and yes it is based in history. Ask yourself, how many books have you been asked to admire because they place identifiablly good people at the mercy of identifiably bad people? Did this one add any nuance to the standard story? The author 's ethnic heritage is Lithuanian, but there is no evidence that she knew very much about the history of the Baltic nations, the relationships amon the Slavic peoples, their reasoning in escaping from the USSR via Hitler's Germany. If we are to learn from history, we must view it in living color, not just shades of gray, mostly black and whire. This author is at the beginning of her career. She needs to dig deeper.
I normally don't read these type of books but I am glad I did. This is an amazing book even though there are many unpleasant scenes. This book was harsh, beautiful and inspiring. It's a powerful book and I recommend it to everyone.
Such a realistic and sad stor.y
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