Sepetys’ flowing prose gently carries readers through the crushing tragedy of this tale that needs telling.

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY

This bitterly sad, fluidly written historical novel tackles a topic woefully underdiscussed in English-language children’s fiction: Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror.

On June 14th, 1941, Soviet officers arrest 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother and her mother and deport them from Lithuania to Siberia. Their crammed-full boxcar is labeled, ludicrously, “Thieves and Prostitutes.” They work at a frigid gulag for eight months—hungry, filthy and brutalized by Soviet officers—before being taken to the Siberian Arctic and left without shelter. Lina doesn’t know the breadth of Stalin’s mass deportations of Baltic citizens, but she hears scraps of discussion about politics and World War II. Cold, starvation, exhaustion and disease (scurvy, dysentery, typhus) claim countless victims. Lina sketches urgently, passing her drawings along to other deportees, hoping they’ll reach Papa in a Soviet prison. Brief flashbacks, seamlessly interwoven, illuminate Lina’s sweet old life in Kaunas like flashes of light, eventually helping to reveal why the repressive, deadly regime targeted this family.

Sepetys’ flowing prose gently carries readers through the crushing tragedy of this tale that needs telling. (maps, timeline, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25412-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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