Between Shades of Grey*, by Ruta Sepetys, is the story from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian, Lina, who, in 1941, is arrested and deported from her home along with her mother, brother and eventually 130000 other Lithuanian civilians, to Siberian labour camps under the orders of Stalin. Lina’s father is separated from the rest of the family, and classed as an enemy resistance member.
The main quality of this novel which makes it stand out among other books about Stalin’s invasion and takeover of the Baltic states is Lina’s incredible ability to hope for a better outcome, despite the hardships which she has to face along the way. Part of this is due to her relationship with a fellow teenager, Andrius (the epilogue reveals what happens to him). However, another key figure is a Soviet guard, Kretsky, who tries to help her mother contact their father, despite Lina’s prejudice against Russians as a whole.
Although Lina’s narration being incomplete (for instance she has no idea why she was deported) and not as aware of her situation as an adult would be, there are plenty of plot details that would almost too hard to read but are tempered with a slight sense of humour and the resilience that she shows.
*Disclaimer: do not confuse this title with another that has a completely different story.