Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Before I begin about this book, I just want to say this book is not to be confused with the very popular erotica series Fifty Shades of Grey. These two books are very different and if you are looking for a review of "Fifty," you are in the wrong place.

This book opened my eyes to a whole "new" part of WWII that I had really had no idea about. Yes, I have heard of Stalin, but I had no idea of his evil to the Lithuanian people. While many Secondary students in today's schools have learned about Hitler's evil, it was interesting to hear a story about what was happening in other parts of Europe at the time.

Between Shades of Gray follows fifteen-year-old Lina as she is about to embark on art school. She has a loving family and all seems to be going well. One night, as she was preparing to write her best friend and cousin, she hears a loud knock on the door. What unfolds will change her, and her family's life forever. Much like holocaust stories, Lina and her family are rounded up, along with other "criminals" in her town, and loaded on to cattle cars. This story follows their stories through Nina's writing and drawing as they are taken far away from their home in Lithuania with no explanations.

As with many YA stories there is a love story that also develops within the pages of Between Shades of Gray. I continued to ask myself if this was possible, but as I continued to reflect, I believe it showed how strong Nina's character was in such a horrific experience. This love story is based on surviving and allowing someone into the deepest and scariest part of your soul.

As Nina and her family are uprooted, they are separated from their father and husband. The entire preface of this book was to show how Nina was trying to reach her father. Nina used her art work to send messages to other prisoners to let them (and her father) know that they were okay.

I felt this book was so beautifully written and it drew my attention to a piece of history that has been forgotten my many. Nina's story opened a new world of research for me to remind myself that there are so many lost voices out there that parished during this trying time in history. Even as a adult, I find that I love books that teach me new things that I had no idea happened, I had this same experience when I read Persepolis. 

While I loved this book, there was one thing that really disappointed me. While the book was about so much more, the preface of this book was for Nina and her family to reconnect with the man in their life.  I felt, at some points in the novel, that this was lost and we never get closure on the reaction of others when they received Nina's art. I would have loved that perspective. Overall, however, this book was a gem and look forward to recommending it to the history buffs in my future classroom. I think they will surprised as well.

Between Shades of Gray:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler Art by Maira Kalman

Yay! I'm blogging about actual books again, so very exciting.

When I first saw this book at the book store I was automatically intrigued. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of books with pictures in them, however, I could not walk away from this book. While this book was a little pricy, I had to buy it.

Why We Broke Up is an epistolary/ stream of consciousness novel that follows the cliche teenage relationship of Min and Ben. The entire book is made up of artifacts of their relationship with the text explaining the significance behind them. I don't want to give too much away, but although the title of this book is Why We Broke Up, I kept reading and hoping that everything would work out for these two in the end.

I know, I know, the track record for teenage relationships is not great, myself included, however, the deepness of Min and Ed's relationship brought me back to how important these things were when I was at the ripe age of 16. What I loved most about this book was the intertwining of pictures and text. We all know we had that box of treasures from the days of our relationships that we all wanted to think of as love. Each artifact had me thinking about how everything meant something when I was young and "in love."

I also love books that keep me wondering after the last page has been read. I fell asleep last night still thinking about Ed and Min's relationship and wondering what Ed would do after he received Min's box of artifacts that she is spitefully returning to him. Most importantly this book reminded me that teenagers, since this fall I will be working with hundreds of them, are most of the time not focused on what we teach them in our classrooms, but are focused on the relationships that are building and crumbling around them. I was reminded how sensitive we can all be when faced with what we think may be the love of our lives.

As I mentioned earlier, I really was rooting for Ed and Min's relationship to pan out and was hoping Handler was just tricking me with the title of his book. However, this is not the case and if you are someone who is disappointed when books don't end with a happily ever after, you probably shouldn't read this book. However, if you are someone who likes to reflect on the years of your own adolescents, this book holds many treasures. If Ed and Min were real, I know Min is living happily with a man who was right for her, not some trivial high school relationship. I am so glad I picked up this book and devoured it in one sitting. I will be thinking about this one for awhile and look forward to the time when I can re read it again.

This book also was a Printz honor award for 2011

Why We Broke Up:

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