Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys

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As Between Shades of Gray opens, Lina explains that she has little understanding that her parents planned to attempt to escape Lithuania. What can be inferred about her understanding of the political climate in her country? Do you think her surprise is a typical reaction for a teen? Why or why not?

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Between Shades of Gray was written by Ruta Sepetys. It is about the experience of a fifteen-year-old girl in Lithuania named Lina, who is living through a tumultuous time period during World War II. Suddenly, Soviet officers invade and raid her family's home. Lina, her brother, and her mother are separated from their father. It is in this context that we can understand why her parents had planned an attempted escape from Lithuania.

Lina behaves like a typical teenager. She is naive, idealistic, and optimistic about the future despite the perilous events around her. We can reasonably infer that Lina's understanding of the political climate in her country is ignorant or misinformed, and her reaction of surprise when the Soviet officers rip her family apart is evidence of that. People in Lithuania who understand the political climate in her country expected to have their lives ruined if they do not do something, such as attempt to escape the country, but Lina disregarded the warning signs that her parents had planned to do just that.

Likewise, Lina's reaction of surprise when she learns that her parents planned to escape confirms her attitude of naïveté, which is typical thinking for a teen. As mentioned, Lina behaves like a typical teenager. She is hopeful, ignorant of the seriousness of events around her, and also disregards warning signs or any negativity that could bring her views into clear focus and reality. In the end, the story shows Lina as strong, loving, and courageous, and her perseverance through tough times is on full display—but these character traits are not noticeable until after she and her family face difficult and dangerous obstacles.

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