Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is something of a companion book, or prequel, to the heart-breaking, sad and beautiful Salt to the Sea. In this book we get to follow Joanna’s (from Salt to the Sea) cousin Lina as she is hauled away by the Soviet secret police from her home in Lithuania and thrown into a cattle car en route to a work camp in Siberia. Up until then, Lina had been just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941, but with an extraordinary talent for drawings. Separated from her father, Lina finds solace in her art, and at great risk documents events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea can be read as standalones, but I really enjoyed learning about Joanna’s life prior to meeting her in her struggle in Salt to the Sea.
This is a beautiful, gripping story about survival and hope in the darkest of places. It’s deeply moving and emotional, but compared to Salt to the Sea, it didn’t steal my breath and heart just as much. Perhaps because I read the books in the wrong order? Or perhaps because it was Ruta Sepetys’ debut book and she’s gotten even better at creating heartfelt characters and plots along the way?
Still, Between Shades of Gray is an amazing, important and highly recommended historical read with loveable characters. And even though the tragic, horrible, historical events it describes, it’s a fast and easy-read YA story that in the end gives you hope and shows you the strength of love and compassion.
Ruta Sepetys is an extraordinary writer, always doing thorough research and creating heart-piercing fiction based on historical events that must not be forgotten. I will definitely keep reding more of her books!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Ruta Sepetys