Reviews: “Between Shades of Gray” & “Legend”

This might be a long post but I finished these books at the same time and just thought it’s be easier to review them together!

I wanted to read something by Ruta Sepetys because I’ve seen her other book floating around the book world now. I love Marie Lu’s “The Young Elites” series so I knew I had to read her other series as well!

These two authors are also going to be at the North Texas Teen Book Festival at the end of April, and that may have had something to do with why I’m reading these books… 😉


Between Shades of GrayTitle: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Length: 344 pages (hardcover edition)
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads) “Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.”

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

I struggled giving this book more than 3 stars. I didn’t want to do it out of sympathy for the characters or the horrible situation they were in, so I had to step away from that and look at the plot, characters, and writing style individually and as a whole.

In terms of plot…I’m not exactly sure there is one. What pushes the story further is what’s happening outside to Lina, her family, and the hundreds of other Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians, who are imprisoned by the Soviets, working on farms for meager bread rations. The family and the others are just trying to survive in such a horrible situation.

Lina hopes to find a way to her father, so she turns to her art. She finds hope in her art as well, drawing with anything and on anything she can. Sometimes, it helps her, but a lot of times she is afraid her drawings will be found and she will be punished. At some points, her gift comes in handy because she is able to help her family get more food rations by doing something for the NKVD.

Lina is a strong character, especially for everything happening around her. She has her faults, of course, and she struggles to see things the same way that others see them, but she perseveres, and I find that incredibly important in the situation that she and her family were in. Despite the worst of situations and what she believed happened to her family, Lina didn’t give up. That didn’t mean she didn’t want to, but I believe she chose not to–she wasn’t strong for herself, in many situations, but for her family.

I wasn’t sure what to make of some of the other characters, like the young Soviet officer, but it seems a sheer miracle what happened at the end, which, ultimately, I think, gave Lina more to hope in, especially with some of the devastating news she received towards the end.

The writing style is simply and the chapters are quite short as well. A quick read for someone like me, who reads fairly quickly anyways.

Overall, this is quite a sad read. But for me, it was also enlightening. I had no idea that any of this happened. It’s such a shame. I never learned any of this when I was in school, and I just feel devastatingly ignorant. Kudos to the author for writing something so close, dear, and meaningful to herself and her family.


Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Length: 305 pages (hardcover edition)
Genre: Young adult, Dystopian
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads) “What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.”

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook. I recently discovered the goodness of audiobooks since I spent anywhere from 30-45 minutes driving to work each day.

I’d like to give this 5 stars but I can’t! There are some small issues I had which affect how I view the things that are happening in the book.

  1. I had a hard time believing Day and June are only 15-years-old. Sometimes I try to ignore each a bit, and maturity level, since this book is set in a dystopian world, where ideals and values are different than what we have in our own realistic society. Maybe this might be because I don’t meet any mature 15-year-olds. XD At least, not in a way that Day and June are.
  2. World building. A lot of times, this is a struggle for dystopian novels, and I found that to be the case. I have a decent grasp of where Day and June are from and the type of life they live, but what exactly happened to the U.S.? Day and June live in the Republic, but there’s another group (country?) that consists of the eastern part of the former U.S., known as the Colonies. I want more information as to what exactly caused this division between the country. I hope these gaps are filled in when I read the second book.
  3. I’m unsure about the romance. June’s right when she says, towards the end, that she really doesn’t know much about Day. I’m not convinced the two are in love at all.

Legend is filled with action! It’s fast-paced, too, so I guarantee you won’t get bored either. I’m not a super big fan of dystopian novels but of the ones I’ve read, I like this one a lot, and I think it terms of dystopian, it ranks up there with The Hunger Games series.

Whew! Thanks for taking the time to read these reviews! I’ll try to post them separately but I have a habit of reading more than one book at a time… ^_^’

Have you read these books? What are your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Reviews: “Between Shades of Gray” & “Legend”

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