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.