Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Celebrated by an Entire Homeland

The honors just keep coming for Ruta Sepetys and Between Shades of Gray

March 30, 2012 Between Shades of Gray, the bestselling debut young-adult novel by Nashvillian Ruta Sepetys, has already won the Golden Kite Award (an honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Prix RTL-Lire (a French prize for the best novel for young people). It was also a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award. Now Shades of Gray has been shortlisted for a prestigious Carnegie Medal, and Sepetys has been honored with Lithuania’s Patriot Award.

Shades of Gray—marketed in the U.S. as a YA novel but in most other countries as a book for adults—tells the story of fifteen-year-old Lina and her family, whom Stalin’s forces deport from their home in Lithuania and incarcerate in a Siberian work camp. Sepetys drew the tale from exhaustive research and from her own family history. “I have been waiting for twenty years for a book like Between Shades of Gray by R. Sepetys,” said Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Juknevičienė in bestowing the Patriot Award. “People of the world will discover the tragic history of Lithuania. The book has become an ice-breaker and carried out into the world the message about that painful period in our history.”

Founded in 1936 to honor the writers who most encourage children to read, the Carnegie medal carries no cash prize but confers tremendous prestige. “To be nominated for the Carnegie Medal is an indescribable honor,” Sepetys says. “I’m so grateful to my publisher and also to the jurors on the committee. History holds secrets and secrets hold stories. This nomination honors the people of the Baltics who suffered under Stalin but will never have a chance to tell their story.”

Commenting on this year’s shortlist, Rachel Levy, chair of Carnegie panel of judges, said, “Readers of the final eight books will meet some outstanding characters who will make them laugh like Stuart, cry like Conor and think outside the box like Mina. Their Carnegie reading journey will take them to some dark and difficult places, but all the books are ultimately about the beauty and hopefulness of life and all are beautifully written.”

Published in hardcover in 2011, Between Shades of Gray earned rhapsodic reviews and made best-of lists around the media, including The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and iTunes.

The paperback release date for Between Shades of Gray is April 3. Later that month, Sepetys will visit high schools in West Tennessee as this year’s featured author in Humanities Tennessee’s Student Reader Days. In May Chapter 16 will publish an original essay by Sepetys about her experiences in the schools. Stay tuned for more details.