A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Yes. You read that correctly. I liked Out of the Easy so much I rushed out to get Between Shades of Gray, and let me tell you, it was even better. It's probably the best book I've read so far this year, but I digress. Here's my review of this incredible book by one of my new favorite authors!

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 344
Publisher: Philomel Books
ISBN: 9780399254123
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
AR Levels: Book Level: 3.6; Interest Level: 6th-12th;  Points: 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7824322-between-shades-of-gray

In a nutshell: Fifteen-year-old Lina is on her way to a promising career as a talented artist when Stalin's soldiers arrest her and her family and force them to leave their Lithuanian home in the middle of the night in 1941. They journey thousands of miles packed into filthy rail cars to arrive at a Siberian work camp, where they are worked to the bone and treated like animals. Can Lina and her family find hope in the grays of the arctic wilderness?

I'd recommend it for grades: 8 and up (heavy subject matter)

I'd recommend it to: historical fiction fans, WWII buffs, readers who liked Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank or Night by Elie Weisel, and anyone who enjoys a powerful yet heartbreaking story of survival

What I liked most about this book: It's chillingly enlightening and beautifully written even if the subject matter makes you sick. I was completely unaware of these displaced and abused people who suffered so much at exactly the same time as the Holocaust but in the wastelands of Siberia. It hurts to read this book, but I couldn't put it down. Also, the mother in this book is one of the strongest and bravest women I've encountered in a book in a while. I'm amazed at how completely opposite she is from Josie's despicable and uncaring mother in Out of the Easy. It's an interesting contrast.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I teared up a few times while reading this book, but there's a scene that's set in the rail car that really moved me. In the midst of chaos and fear and filth, Mrs. Rimas, the Lithuanian librarian, begins to tell stories to the children waiting in uncertainty to put them at ease. I couldn't help but wonder if I were in that dire situation if I'd be able to selflessly put aside my own fear in order to do what I've devoted my own life to - improving the lives of children. This sweet, brave librarian swallowed her sheer terror to try to calm those frightened children. I hope I never have to be put in that situation, but if I were, I hope I'd be that brave too. This book is full of courageous moments like that one. It's inspiring.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'd give this one 6 stars if I could, but I'll give it 5 and play fair.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Out of The Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 346
Publisher: Philomel Books
ISBN: 9780399256929
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level: 4.0; Interest Level: 9th to 12th; Points: 11.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11178225-out-of-the-easy

In a nutshell: On the outside, Josie Moraine appears to be a normal, bright high schooler with a promising future. Josie works at a bookshop in 1950 in New Orleans, and she's saving up to go to college. However, there's more to Josie than meets the eye. She's the daughter of a prostitute and also works part-time cleaning up the brothel her mother lives in. As hard as Josie tries to leave The Big Easy, the more her family secret drags her back. Just when Josie thinks her big break has finally come, tragedy strikes, and her mother is wanted for murder, and like it or not, Josie is pulled into the dark underbelly of the French Quarter once again.

I'd recommend it for grades: 10 and up (for language and subject matter)

I'd recommend it to: Louisianians, murder mystery fans, students who can empathize with Josie's tough family life

What I liked most about this book: Josie is a kick-butt heroine. She's cool, calm, and collected no matter what stressful situation she's put in, and she's incredibly strong considering how quickly she had to grow up. She's definitely a great role model for teens. Personally, I also loved the setting. 1950's New Orleans plays out as equally beautiful and despicable. You see both sides of the tracks from the poorest to the richest as the plot unfolds. It made me miss Louisiana something awful. :) And the COVER! Oh, the cover! Gorgeous.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Josie and Patrick, the bookshop owner, like to play a couple of games that are pretty funny. In one, they ask each other which literary character they'd prefer to marry, and in another, they use hand signals to try to predict what genre of book a customer will buy when they walk in. It provides some much needed comic relief for the book.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars