I have and that book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Here is a description of the story from the official book website:
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother was worth a pocket watch.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Today I have the honor of interviewing New York Times Bestselling and multiple award winning author, Ruta Sepetys. Thank you so much for joining us Ruta!
RS - Thank you! It was difficult at times to find that balance. I was trying to address the search for self in the face of death, which can be pretty dark and depressing. My editor, Tamra Tuller, continually pushed me to focus on the hopeful elements. Many of her revision suggestions centered around amplifying the sense of hope. I enjoy bleak stories so my first drafts tend to be pretty depressing. Tamra's suggestions added incredible dimension to the story but allowed me to retain the dark atmosphere I felt was critical for historical authenticity.
Lina is a wonderful character and I remember thinking several times while reading the novel that you had picked a perfect age for her. What made you decide to make Lina fifteen turning sixteen in the book versus a younger or older protagonist?
RS - Many of the survivors I met with were teenagers when they were in Siberia. Their stories were incredibly compelling and they were all so full of fire and bravery. I thought it might add an interesting dimension to the story if it were told from the point of view of a teenage girl. Also, since this is such a little known piece of history, I was hoping that it might be discovered by teachers and librarians. There are so many wonderful librarians who support the YA genre.
When writing a historical, do you plot then research or do you research then plot?
RS - When I started "Between Shades of Gray" I decided to write the book as I was researching. I hoped writing amidst the research process would create a sense of immediacy in the narrative. I'm not sure I'd do that again! I ended up revising quite a bit. I think next time I will research, plot, then draft.
4. Your cover perfectly captures the a ray of hope in a barren wasteland. Can you tell us anything about the journey of your cover and title?
RS - Thank you! I love the cover. I can't take any credit for it though. I wasn't involved in the process at all. Penguin sent me an email saying, "Here's your cover!" and I fell in love with it. They are now designing a new cover for the paperback version which will be released next spring. I can't wait to see it. In terms of the title, "Between Shades of Gray" was my original title for the book. In meeting with survivors I learned that their situation was complicated and choices were difficult. I think we tend to categorize things in extremes (good/evil, love/hate, etc.) But things aren't always black or white. More often, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And sometimes, when we peel back the layers, the extremes fall away and we can find love and tolerance there, between shades of gray. Not all the Soviets were cruel. Some showed compassion. So the Lithuanians couldn't hate all of the Soviets. Hope and truth lived between endless layers of gray. That was the inspiration for the title.
5. Can you tell us what you are working on now and when it might be available?
RS - I just finished a novel that's set in New Orleans in 1950. It tells the story of a very gifted girl who is the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute. Despite her background and society's opinion of her, she applies to a prestigious college. It's a story of the courage and fortitude it takes to fly when you're born with broken wings. And since it's in New Orleans there's a mystery and a cast of eccentric characters! Philomel/Penguin Young Readers Group is publishing the book in Spring of 2013.
RS - Ooh, there are so many! I love anything by Toni Morrison, Truman Capote, or Ellen Gilchrist. Beth Kephart has a new YA coming out called "Small Damages" that's fantastic. Beth is one of the most beautiful writers. Even her blog posts are poetic. I recently read "Letters From Home" by Kristina McMorris and adored it. I also love Laura Kasischke, a writer from Michigan. Her YA novels are published by HarperTeen and her adult books are through Harper Perennial. If you're looking for a fun, compelling read you must pick up "Dead Rules" by Randy Russell. If I had to choose an all-time favorite book it would be "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff.
Thank you so much for visiting with us Ruta!
YA Fusion is excited to give away a signed copy of Between Shades of Gray. To enter, leave a comment below. A drawing will be held the week of December 18th. Tell us about the post, about Between Shades of Gray, or about a book that changed your life.
Please leave your e-mail in the comment so I can contact you if you win. Also, the contest is limited to entries in the U.S. and Canada.