Between Fifty Shades of Gray

May 6, 2012

NOT the same book.

In a blush-worthy case of mistaken identity, Ruta Sepetys’ historical YA novel, Between Shades of Gray, is finding itself routinely mixed up by readers (and booksellers) with E.L. James’ bestselling S&M erotica book, Fifty Shades of Grey, reports Christian Science Monitor. And the two books couldn’t be more water and oil. Between is the story of a 15 year old Lithuanian artist named Lina who is abducted with her family by Stalin’s NKVD (secret police) and sent to work in a series of grueling labor camps where they experience wracking starvation, sub-zero conditions, and unbearable cruelty. It’s an uncommonly soulful book – poetic and empathic, horrifying and shocking – that reveals how art can save one’s soul and honors – through the survival story of one resilient teen girl  – the unsung millions of Baltic people deported, enslaved and/or murdered by Stalin’s Soviet regime. (Read more about the book in the Loft review here). James’ Fifty Shades involves a U.S. college student and her sexual entanglement with a wealthy man named Grey who has a penchant for spanking and domination.

Some attendees at Ruta Sepetys’ now popular events – drawn in by the title and expecting more salacious content – are understandably confused about why the Shades of Grey lady is talking about genocide.

But despite all the disoriented head-scratching – and the occasional tweet calling her book trashy porn – Sepetys sees the confusion as a boon. For one, sales are up: the just-released paperback edition of Between is currently at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list. And with attendance at her events also up, Sepetys can spread the word about her book, as well as the ghastly history that drove her to write it, with greater reach. In an interview with, she notes that those people who realize they’re at the wrong author’s event stick around. “They come up to me afterward and confess they got their events mixed up, but ask, ‘Is it really true that Stalin killed 20 million people?’ So if people discover this part of history, even by lucky accident, it’s a win for me.” And speaking of reach, there’s also this new interview with Entertainment Weekly, likely to send even more readers her way. In it, Sepetys discusses receiving letters from readers whose family members died in Siberia, the emotional toil wrought on her while writing the book, and a moved teen who described her book as, “The Hunger Games but for real.

So, check out BETWEEN Shades of Gray. The title of the Christian Science Monitor article reads, Between Shades of Gray – probably not the book you’re thinking of. But, if you’re looking for a sophisticated historical read that illuminates with heart a bleak, recent, midnight corner of human history – one that even hints at forgiveness – it’s probably the book you’re hoping for. (Jarrett, the Loft).


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