The struggle of both loving and hating the story we go through in…Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


I feel like this Winter, I’m really cracking down on my TBR. I’m finally getting to all the books that have been sat on my shelves for months – or almost a year – and it feels so good.

So that’s how I finally got to this book, and I’m so glad I can finally check it off my list.

spoiler free

Let’s talk about Between Shades of Gray!


Title: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Penguin

Series Status: Standalone

Genre: Historical Fiction

Number of Pages:  338


(Found on back cover and Goodreads)

One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia.

An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

Lina hopes for her family. For her country. For her future. For love—first love, with the boy she barely knows but knows she does not want to lose… Will hope keep Lina alive?

Set in 1941, Between Shades of Gray is an extraordinary and haunting story based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors.


You know when you both love and hate a story? 


I hated it because it was so heartbreaking to see people go through this. To know that people actually went through this, once upon a different time. And yet, that’s exactly why I loved it.

Because this book opened my eyes to a part of war I’d never heard of before. Because it made me feel so much. Because at points, I was reading with tears in my eyes. Because after, this story will stay with me, and I’m glad of that despite it leaving my heart heavy.

Right from the start, this book is heartbreaking. As if seeing a family being dragged from their home and away from everything they know wasn’t bad enough, you then have to go on this journey with them…and let me tell you, it’s hard. Which is the biggest understatement of the century. 

To put it simply, this story is brutal. It’s so hard to read, especially with it being told from the eyes of a 15 year old girl. How does that make it harder? Because you see how not only adults, but children become used to the brutality. Throughout the story, some of the most cruel situations are mentioned in a really off-handish way, just because it’s become part of their everyday life. And to see that almost lack of reaction, just the acknowledgement that it happened…it’s just really hard to think such images became normalised to these people.

And yet, there’s also a side to the story that’s beautiful to see. Because when all this was going on, this book really shows how sheer hope can extend the will to live. The determination to simply survive, and to keep others alive too even if you don’t know them…it’s something to admire. When reading, I remember thinking to myself “I wouldn’t be able to get through all this” – but of course, no one would think that unless they actually have to go through it. Which I sincerely hope no one has to ever do again.

I really appreciated the fact that all the characters were different. “Of course the characters are different Ashleigh, everybody’s different” you might be thinking. But the difference is really obvious in here – the personalities so strong. And like I said, I appreciated that, because you get to see how so many different people handled this situation, how they got through it and what they hoped for. It’s not just the story of this one girl and her family. You get to see many people’s story.

Admittedly, I’d have liked to see a little more of the “after”. To see how things turned out. You get a little snippet, but I was just so hooked on the story, I wanted to know what happened to everyone. But I suppose that’s what makes it feel more realistic – you’ll never really know what happened to all these people. You’ll never really understand what it took to get through it all.

My heart was heavy when finishing this book. And I was glad of it. Because this story will stay with me for a long time, with a stamp on my heart and a space tucked away in my mind.

Everybody should read this book.

Rated 4/5 stars




Share your thoughts!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

If you haven’t, do you plan to?

Maybe you’ve read one of Ruta Sepetys’ other books?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time…


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19 thoughts on “The struggle of both loving and hating the story we go through in…Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

  1. So happy to hear you liked this. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Sometimes I had to take a break from reading it because it made me sick to my stomach but at the same time, it was so beautifully written. Although the characters went through some hard and brutal times, it still felt like they kept hope. I loved that. (: A quote from this story that has stuck with me since I read it 3 or so years ago is along the lines of “you never know what a human life is worth, but that day my brothers was worth a pocket watch”. I know that’s not exactly word for word but its always stuck with me because of the sheer power from it. It’s deep and raw and depressing. It really showed how much people were willing to go to keep their family together ❤


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw it’s so nice to see someone love this book so much! I feel like not enough people read and appreciate historical fiction!
      I get what you mean about needing breaks sometimes. There’s a limit to how much you can read without feeling sick, but at the same time you want to know the entire story. It wouldn’t be as powerful without it. And yes, I know which quote you mean! I’m pretty sure the first half of it is printed on the cover of the book too, so it’s definitely one that stands out!


          1. Yeah I read Out of the Easy not too long ago and it wasn’t my favorite book in the world because I felt like it didn’t have much direction, but I love Ruta Sepetys so I still thought it was pretty good! (PS. I actually have a review for it! ….sorry for the self-promo :))

            Liked by 1 person

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