I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
There have been many wonderful young adult novels written about WWII. However, I cannot think of any that address what the Baltic countries went through under Stalin. I was so pleased to get a copy of this fictional account of the forcible relocation of some Lithuanians after the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. 16-yr-old Lina and her mother and younger brother are taken from their home by soldiers and taken to a Siberian labor camp. Lina tries to maintain her dignity and sanity by using art to chronicle her harrowing journey and tell the story of what happened to her family. I don't want to give too much away about the plot of this wonderful book. The journey of Lina and her family is incredibly moving and tragic. Their endure unspeakable hardships and try to cling to shreds of hope that help them to survive. The book highlights a group of people that history has tended to sideline and reveals the story of what happened to many of the people who were forcibly displaced from their homes under Stalin.
This is a beautiful book and often had me crying. My only complaint was that it wrapped up too quickly. I couldn't believe it when the ending came. There were so many unanswered questions and things I wanted to know. We never learn the fate of several of the characters in the book and that was frustrating for me. Still, it is a minor complaint in an overall excellent book.
*PARENTAL ADVISORY with spoilers* This book is appropriate for high school age young adults and some younger readers with supervision. There is a great deal of violence and several characters are killed including a newborn baby and its mother. There is the threat of rape although it does not actually take place. Some of the images may be difficult for young readers. However, the book reveals truths about a horrible time and place that I feel it is important for young adults to know about and understand.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. Extremely well done. Excellent characters and a story that pulls you in and doesn't let you go. A very powerful work.