Between Shades of Gray

By: Ruta Sepetys


This novel written by Ruta Sepetys explains the life of Lina after her life was changed. She was arrested for no reason by the secret Soviet police. It started June, 1941. Lina was 15 and was getting ready for art school, when there was a sudden knock on the door. Next thing she knew her family was getting thrown into a cattle car; headed for Siberia, and were separated from her father. Throughout her journey she secretly sends clues in her drawings, hoping they will get to her father. During this long period of time she shows strength, love, and determination. She fights for her life and many others, but how many can be saved in these conditions?

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Determination is the key to success. This to me is the theme because throughout this whole book Lina was determined. Determined to save her life, others lives, find her dad, help, and to see the day that it all was over. She never gave up through her ups and downs or through the losses she saw. She definitely wanted it to be all over, but she never just gave up. Others didn't exactly believe they were going to live, but she did. This is why determination was the key to success.


Stalin drafted lists of who he considered Anti-Soviet such as doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, librarians, priests, and kids. These people had committed no crime, but they all were arrested. Men and woman were separated. They were all stuffed into cattle cars; men went to prison and women were sent to Siberia. Stalin also underestimated everyone's will to live. During this time brave people buried and incorporated the stories (of what was going on) into art and music. One lady that Ruta interviewed said this,

"From inside one of the cattle cars packed with men someone called to me and he pulled off his wedding ring and slipped it to me through the slab. You will need this to feed yourself. Give this to your mother, you will need it for food." Then the soldiers dragged her back to her cattle car and it was the last time she ever saw her father. Ruta herself said, "In my interviews with the survivors, from time to time, I would find someone who told me that someone from the NKVD had secretly helped them in some way or showed them some form of kindness."

How Ruta Portrayed the Research into the Book

In this book, the author incorporates many things that actually happened. For example, Ruta used Miss Grybas (the teacher) to show some of the people that Stalin drafted. She also showed this by saying that Lina recognized a librarian, an owner of a hotel, and some men that her papa talked to on the street. None of these people had done anything wrong. She showed that the men and women were separated, but she did change it a little bit. In the book there were some men in the cattle cars with Lina, her mom, and her brother. Her dad was seperated from them though, so she showed that some men were separated and some were not, where in her research it said they were all separated. In this book, Ruta also included how the women went to Siberia and the men went to prison. Lina and the people in the cattle cars (male and female) were headed for Siberia. She twisted it just a little bit right there because like I said before, in the book she had some men with the women. Later on they found out that Lina's father was sent to jail. Also in the book, Lina was an artist and documented her experience through her drawings (and letters). She then buried them in a jar and hoped one day someone would find them to know what actually happened. That is how Ruta showed how in real life they hid clues in drawings. In Ruta's interview in the paragraph above, it explained how this man gave this lady his wedding ring so they could get food. Ruta incorporated this in the story by referring it to Lina's father's 'wedding band'. He gave it to her, telling her to give it to her mother so she could sell it for money or food. Also, referring back to what Ruta said in the paragraph above, she said sometimes some people would tell her that someone from the NKVD had secretly helped them. They showed this in the book by using the character Kretzsky. He let Lina take wood, but he also opened up to her. He showed her much kindness in the end too.

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MLA Citation

PenguinYoungReaders. "Author Ruta Sepetys Talks About the True History Behind Between Shades of Gray." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, Web. 9 Jan. 2014