Monday, March 28, 2011


If you've not heard of Ruta Sepetys's debut, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, get ready.

Because that's all I'm talking about this week.

Seriously, you guys--this book is (a) amazing and (b) the kind of book that needs to be written, in the same way that Markus Zusak's book THE BOOK THIEF was needed.

Which should probably give you an indication of what the book's about. Instead of just giving you the jacket flap description, I want to do something a little different. This is the opening of a review from the LA Times about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY:

In young adult books about World War II, the Holocaust dominates. But there are lesser-known atrocities that also took place, including during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. The Soviets not only displaced countless Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, leaving them to die, but wiped those countries from the map for much of the last century.

It's this story that is told in "Between Shades of Gray," the heart-wrenching debut novel from Ruta Sepetys. Sepetys is the granddaughter of a Lithuanian military officer who himself escaped to a refugee camp during World War II. Other members of her extended family weren't so lucky. They were deported to Siberia, forced into hard labor or imprisoned, much like the fictional characters here.

Booklist called BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY "An important book that deserves the widest possible readership." I couldn't agree more. You better believe that once I get my copy back from the Bookanistas, I'm going to shove it into my teacher friend's hands (I'm looking at you, Laura!).

If you're not convinced that you need to read this novel yet, stick around. This week, Ruta was kind enough to tell me all about her book, her writing process, her research, and even how the astounding video about the book's origins was made.

Not only that, but Ruta has very graciously provided one lucky blog reader with a wonderful prize!

Between Shades of Gray Prize Pack:
Signed bookplate
Music download card

All this week, I'll be posting about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. Comment on a post, you get an entry for the random drawing. Five posts = five chances to comment and win. So come back every day this week for another chance to comment and win! 

Also: sorry, but this contest is US only! However, next week and the week after I'll be hosting international contests with multiple prizes, so don't give up hope on me! Please also make sure to include your email address if you haven't got it in your profile.

Also, I thought it might be easier if I suggested some topics for comments--you don't have to comment on the following questions to enter (a simple "please enter me!" is fine), I just thought it might be fun to get a real discussion going.

Question 1: BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY deals with World War II history. What is your favorite period of history to learn more or read more about?

Question 2: This particular aspect of history is often (sadly) forgotten. What is a period or event in history--or that's going on right now--that you feel deserves more attention from the world?


Melody said...

Dare I claim *first comment*? :)

There are so many aspects of WW2, and only a couple of them ever get much YA recognition. I would love to see more on the underground French resistance. Also, more on the revolution that resulted in Anastasia's "death". And the dark ages of Europe! Oh, yes please! :)

Also, count me in to win this. It looks magnificent. :)

Sarah Lydia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Lydia said...

I love all the stuff that happened in the B.C and early A.D time area. Stuff like the Roman Empire, The Greek Empire, The Assyrian Empire (I loved learning about how they went around the whole known world and just killed and conquered empire after empire), the Fertile Crescent, Etc.
I also love the mythology and religion from those times. Particularly Greek Mythology, but any would do. I love learning (and reading about) the Coliseum, sacrifices, the symbolism and meaning of certain things, the places of worship, the games the Greeks had before the Olymipics (I can't remember for the life of me what they're called), and....
Gah. I did not mean to go on like that. That was slightly embarrassing. :/
Anyways, please enter me in the giveaway!

Litza said...

Oh my goodness, there are so many eras that pique my interest! I'm really fascinated by everything ancient Greek, especially since I'm an art history geek. :) Frankly, I like too many eras to really narrow it down successfully.
Anywhoozle... I'd love to win this giveaway! I've had my eyes on this book for a while now... woo hoo!

Rachel Leigh said...

WWII has always sparked my interests! I would love to win Between Shades of Gray!!!

Rachel Leigh
TheOneRing111 at gmail dot com

Vivien said...

I really enjoy reading about the French revolution. That time period is just terrifying.
I would love to know more about the Egyptians. There's a lot of mystery there.

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Katie said...

i have heard so many great things about this book. and that many readers are crying over it. I don't really know how I feel about that but the fact that I have heard nothing but great things about this makes me want to read it!

my favorite time period i think is ancient egypt or maybe even the Mongolian Empire, I have been reading alot about them lately especially in my history class, seems that they were really interesting.


IanBontems said...

You had me at the comparison to The Book Thief! This is on my wish list.
(*shame I have no chance in the giveaway being in the UK)

But I'm really interested in ancient history and the renaissance.

Kay said...

WWII has always been a top interest, especially those books that focus on the Holocaust. I don't know much about the Russian Front, so this book looks interesting.

Rachel said...

My favorite time period in history is the Civil War era. I love the book and movie Gone With the Wind and there is just something about that time in history that is fascinating.

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

A1: I really love ancient rome, mythology stuff but I also like the the tinier groups of people that we're still figuring out even before or during that. I also like anything with Egypt. Basically I love history, so I know I'll love this book!! Thanks for the giveaway!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

No need to enter me into the contest, I've read it and LOVED IT! This is one of my favorite YA books ever!

Christi said...

I don't consider myself a history buff, but this book looks interesting (I've heard nothing but great things about it), and it is an aspect of WW2 that doesn't get too much attention. Would love to be entered to win this, but will be reading regardless.

Nicole Settle said...

I read a story that touched a little about the potato famine in Ireland and its something I know nothing about and since then I've been really intrigued by it. I never thought I'd write a historical novel but I think if I ever do then I might gravitate to something that had to do with that. And I'm really excited to read this book because I know nothing about this part of WW II history.

Rebecca said...

It's so hard to choose just one favorite historical time period. I especially love ancient history, particularly Mesopotamian and Egyptian, but there are so many other rich, fascinating times. Obviously. Like the Scottish enlightenment. Or Colonial America. Or dynastic China. Okay, now I'm getting ahead of myself.

As for a historical event/time that I think has not been explored enough, it's another WW2 event. The atom bombs dropped in Japan. I know there have been books about it, but to think about what really happened. God. Entire cities wiped out, man, woman and child, by the allies no less. I think it would be an interesting, if gut-wrenching, time to explore.

The book looks wonderful. Please enter me!

Scoot said...

I don't know of a particular time in history that has been passed over and needs more attention, but WW2 was tragic on all counts. I have read a handful of books regarding the Holocaust and I look forward to reading Between Shades of Gray for another perspective and location of atrocities during the war. This book is necessary like The Book Thief? I am so there.


Amy @ said...

As a history teacher, I can't pick one period. But sadly, I think that all the genocides before and after the Holocaust do not receive enough attention. The Holocaust needs to always be taught as an example of a wider problem--Bosnia, Kurds, Rwanda, Sudan, etc. There is too much hate and fear. There is also too much passivity toward the wrongs of society--well it doesn't affect me. Carrie Ryan's The Forrest of Hands and Teeth beautifully hit on it. Mary questions did she do enough, could she have stopped awesome lesson to teach young children. You can use the final Sienfeld episode to show the ugliness of society. Where they watch and laugh at the guy getting mugged.

Divya said...

I think that something that should be focused on is helping the people of Japan. They are currently facing the incredibly daunting challenge of containing their nuclear plants. The aftermath of the effect of radiation on people is horrendous and reminds me of when Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed during WWII. So many people were and are effected and unfortunately many also die. This is such a sad predicament that I think the world as a whole needs to help this Japan prevent such a catastrophe from happening to its people again.

Divya said...

I think that something that should be focused on is helping the people of Japan. They are currently facing the incredibly daunting challenge of containing their nuclear plants. The aftermath of the effect of radiation on people is horrendous and reminds me of when Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed during WWII. So many people were and are effected and unfortunately many also die. This is such a sad predicament that I think the world as a whole needs to help this Japan prevent such a catastrophe from happening to its people again.

Susan Light said...

I love to read all I can get my hands on dealing with the French Revolution which is why I LOVED Jennifer Donnelly's "Revolution".

ansindt said...

I really want to read this book...sounds like an amazing prize=)

lulilut said...

I can't think of one period I prefer over the other.

I like reading - Jean Auel's Earth Children series, the Tudor era, Tzar Nicholas II, French Revolution, etc.
For me it's the story and the writing.
Please enter me in the giveaway!
d.septer at

Jessy said...

I like reading about the Holocaust. It really does sicken me to hear how people were treated during this time. I hope we never forget this period of history.

Melissa/welachild said...

The book does sound amazing!
I like to read about all things medieval. It's a fascinating period in history.
I think our focus should stay on Japan because it is going to take a lot of work to rebuild. They are still trying to get their footing after everything and the world should stand ready to help them.

Katie said...

WW11/ the Holocaust has always fascinated me, actually. It was a little terrifying last month when I dreamed that Lady Gaga and her band of Nazis kidnapped me. Anyways.

G.Clyde said...

I have been hearing so much about this book, I'd love to win so I can finally read it!

GothMisfitjazz said...

Loved the book!!! Please count me in to win the book!!

Anonymous said...

I'm such a history nerd that I'm having a hard time pinning down one point! Babylon? Roman Empire? WWI and WWII? Aghh! All fantastic points of history.

Hm. I'm definitely going to go with Babylon. I've read a few stories where apparently Babylon had airplanes! AIRPLANES. They were so technology advanced it astounds me. What *happened*?

I think what's happening now in Japan. March Madness seems to be covering up the horrible news of Japan. :\ I'm sure somebody is covering a lot, but wow... it sure doesn't seem like it.

Sarena said...

My favorite period of history to learn about is probably the the 20th century, or more specifically the 1960s.

Also, thanks for the giveaway!

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds really good. I know I'd like it but sometimes being Jewish, it's hard to read about that time period. I did a lot as a kid.

I wish more would be written about girls living in the Middle East now. Some of them have heartbreaking lives with the way women are treated.

Hardygirl said...

I have heard absolutely wonderful things about Ruta's book. I can't wait to hear more this week.


Val said...

WWII seems like a very long time ago. But I think that the effects of that war still echo in society today. That war still dictates the relationship that we have with Japan.

I think that all history has an impact and needs to be considered. If we don't understand the mistakes of the past, we are destined to make them again.

World politics are so complex and many of the struggles that we face today have solutions that can be found by looking to the past.

I didn't know that Between Shades of Gray was set during this time. I am excited to hear more about it.


Anonymous said...

I think all history is very important. I was saddened by how little was actually taught when I was in high school. I had friends that thought the Civil War was fought between France and England in the 1970s! I'm not even making that up. It's scary.

socalgal82 (at) hotmail (dot) com

L Parker said...

It sounds like a great book! I think a very forgotten aspect of history that I feel strongly about would probably be the conflicts in Darfur or Congo. They are both very recent and especially in the Congo ongoing, but very much ignored for the most part.

Gabi said...

WWII and everything that happened during that time are more talked about then other genocides, like Rwanda. It makes me angry how the UN and the US responded to this disatater. And it's NEVER talked about! We need to have more publicity and public info and mourning for this tragedy. And guess what? America never officially appologized to the Rwandan people for refusing them help. Agh!

Laurel said...

I am a huge history nut, so I love learning about pretty much every aspect of history, but I specifically like learning about the french revolution, the victorian era, and really any european history.

I've always felt that no matter what, african countries (especially with the desperate need of clean water,) is always something that deserves plenty of attention. I think people should also learn more about polygamous marriages. I know it's a touchy subject for some, but I think it's something interesting and worth learning about.

Liz Tea said...

My true passion has always been in Egyptian history. I have so many books on it, it's borderline ridiculous. Though I also love me some Scottish history too - Outlander fan club ftw.

And I'd have to say that Africa really doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. There is so much tragedy there, and so many people that need help, it's just saddening.

Minas said...

This book sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway!


~Enamored Soul~ said...

I believe that the era that I've read the most about has to be the WWII era, and thus, it is the era I enjoy reading the most about. But I would definitely love to read more about the Ottoman Empire, and the history of the Middle East.

Likewise, I would love for there to be more books about Mespotamia, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East so that people can read and become more acquainted with the history of these places. The Middle East you see now, Iran/Iraq were WAY different than what they appear to be, now. I believe that there is a lot of remarkable history that can be explored, and many beautiful stories/novels derived from it, when it comes to the Ottoman Empire, Mesopotamian history, and the history of the Midele East.

By the way, your comparison of this book to "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak makes me want to read it THAT MUCH more!!! Thank you for sharing this with us.

Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

History was always one subject in school that interested me far beyond others and WWII was always something that I gravitated towards. I took a year of German and I remember a project about Kristallnacht and how much it affected me, so I think WWII is probably my favorite time period to learn more about. I visited a Holocaust museum years ago and the experience has stuck with me to this day.

Everything surrounding the Berlin Wall also interests me, so Germany in the 60's is also a time that I read about often. So, yeah, history interests me, even while it upsets me.

And please enter me!

lindseybousfield said...

Please enter me, I would love to read this!

Jamie Kline (Bookerella) said...

I'll be the first to admit that in general, history doesn't usually interest me. I was always very interested in hearing about the Holocaust though. In fact, included in my list of fave books is the Maus series by Art Spiegleman (sp?). It was so informative and heartbreaking, and I liked how it was in comic form.

I would love to win Between Shades of Gray, it looks fantastic!

Z. Taco said...

This may sound gruesome, but I really do enjoy learning about the Holocaust. Other major events that were sometimes not well-recorded or overshadowed are also of great interest to me, such as the rapes that occured in the Chinese city of Nanking.
I feel that people should be well educated on such subjects so that these massive tragedies can never occur or be repeated again.

jpetroroy said...

I love hearing about the American Revolution

Hanson said...

I think that something that should be focused on is helping the people of Japan. They are currently facing the incredibly daunting challenge of containing their nuclear plants. The aftermath of the effect of radiation on people is horrendous and reminds me of when Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed during WWII. So many people were and are effected and unfortunately many also die. This is such a sad predicament that I think the world as a whole needs to help this Japan prevent such a catastrophe from happening to its people again.