Between Shades of Gray: The Graphic Novel

Philomel. Oct. 2021. 160p. adapted by adapt. by Andrew Donkin. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593204160; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780593404850.
Gr 9 Up–To mark the 10th anniversary of Sepetys’s moving work about a teenager imprisoned in a Siberian work camp, Donkin and Kopka have adapted it into graphic novel format. In June 1941, Lina and her family in Lithuania are taken from their home by Soviet officers. Lina, 15, is furious and terrified. Her mother bribes the guards into letting Lina’s younger brother stay with her and Lina; Lina’s father’s fate is unknown. Lina meets a young man named Andrius on the train, and their friendship eventually blossoms into tentative romance. The text is told largely from Lina’s perspective, with dialogue from her family and fellow refugees. Once their packed train car arrives at the camp, Lina and her mother work in the beet fields and struggle to stay alive; Lina attempts to get word to her father that they’re in Siberia. Lina finds solace in her artwork, and this is where the graphic novel format shines. The story does not shy from the more horrific details, although violence and death are often depicted off-page. The book is based on real-life accounts of Lithuanian refugees, and an author’s note illuminates Sepetys’s research. The watercolors are rendered mostly in somber grays and browns, although occasional splashes of color are used to great effect. Teens familiar with the story will appreciate its new form, and it will also bring in plenty of new readers.
VERDICT Offering a side of World War II not often depicted in media, this is a solid addition for teen graphic novel collections.

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