As a mother who still valiantly tries to screen everything her 14-year-old daughter reads, I would like to state on record that while we have reviewed many, many books together, most of the books we've chosen to review are four to five stars. In other words, we don't review every book we read together, and we don't only review the books we love (although we do try to always type up reviews only when we have something positive to say, it's sometimes the really bad books that get our attention). Since this is likely our last review as a duo, however, because said daughter is finally in high school - HUZZAH! - I am truly happy that we are "going out" with a five-star review: "Between Shades of Grey" by Ruta Sepetys must surely be one of the must-have books for the war-refugee classroom in any country. I recommend reading this book with "Zlata's Diary" and "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." While both those books are non-fiction, I found "Between Shades of Grey" to be as moving as Zlata's and Anne Frank's stories - and perhaps even more so because of the forgiveness that is a recurring theme in Lina's story. I truly appreciate how Sepetys gave each character, even the minor ones, a depth and element of surprise - and, yes, I have to agree with said daughter that the ending was just ... right. It is sometimes hard to remember that for some peoples, World War Two never actually ended, even now, in the twenty-first century. "Between Shades of Grey" could not have been better titled. For the Lithuanians, Hitler's death and Germany's surrender did not bring about the peace the Allies enjoyed: rather than the black-to-white war-to-peace story of so many countries after 1945, theirs was a longer route out of the darkness. A shout-out to Sepetys for not allowing this group of people to be forgotten. Said daughter's review follows:
" 'Between Shades of Grey' by Ruta Sepetys was a sweet, Anne-Frank type story: fifteen-year-old Lina wants to go to art camp, enjoy summer, talk about cute guys with her cousin, and be normal.
"Unfortunately, that dream will never come true. WW2 is going on, and Lina, as well as her entire family, is captured by the Soviet police. Her father is separated from them, and they may never see each other again. As a way to hopefully communicate with her father on their journey from home, Lina draws pictures to symbolize where they are - in a Siberian prison camp.
"But, despite the awful terror, the mass murdering, the torturing, the starvation and freezing cold all through the trek, the best of the human spirit can be seen at these worst of times.
"I would give 'Between Shades of Grey' five stars. It was so sad, yet so hopeful - I especially love how it had a semi-happy ending. :-) I would give the book two stars for the plot, two stars for the characters, and one star for the fact that it has a kinda-happy ending. There is still pain, and still suffering, but, in the end, there is happiness."