There seems to be a time during the tween and teenage years where kids obsess on reading about war, whether historical or futuristic. In Grade 6, the Book Club immediately gravitated to Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. In Grade 8, it was Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Divergent are all popular novels (and movies) about dystopian wars and the futility of it all.
Perhaps we need to explore the idea of mortality via the safety of a book, looking into the ways humanity can be both brutally evil in its ability to injure each other and incredibly strong in its ways to survive and overcome. I still read these types of historical fiction (think Sarah’s Key and Little Bee) about stories that I believe need to be told so that we don’t forget and repeat.
It took me a while to pick up between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys. I first noticed the title at the school library’s Scholastic book fair, mostly because I wanted to make sure the book wasn’t a take off on another popular book series about shades of gray. 🙂 After reading the back cover description, I realized this was decidedly not related to the other book series, but rather a tale about the displaced Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians during Russia’s occupation in WWII told from a 15-year-old girl’s perspective. Families were arrested and transported to work camps in Siberia and other desolate areas where the weather and living conditions were awful. This book was poignant and heart-wrenching with just enough hope to make young readers stay riveted. I also loved how drawing helps work through the pain and frustration of life, especially when you are at an age when so much is beyond your control.
The official website (www.betweenshadesofgray.com) has great resources for teachers and book clubs alike. I hope my younger daughter’s book club picks this in the fall because there will be so much to talk about. It may not be a light summer read, but if you have a child obsessed with (or just interested in) war novel, have them check this one out!