Recently, I've been trying to expand out of my typical reading palette. I managed to get my hands on two ARCs that helped with that. They were both historical, multicultural novels, and they were both wonderful.
Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water is a middle grade novel based on the true story of a boy who escaped the horrors of Sudan, and returned later to help build wells for the people of his country. It is told through two points of view-- Salva, the Lost Boy, and Nya, a young girl struggling to survive after the war is over. It's beautifully constructed, with only small, pertinent details of each character's lives coming out. I think it will hit its target middle-grade audience well; there is a wonderful balance of history, conflict, and character in an easily-accessible style. For a quick, engaging read with an enjoyable mix of culture and story, you can pick this one up in bookstores now.
Ruta Sepetys' YA novel Between Shades of Gray was...beautiful. I can't think of another word for it. Except maybe horrifying. And haunting. And moving. It's a story of World War II-- but it's a story of a side of WWII that isn't often talked about.
Lina, a teenager living in Lithuania, is taken from her home by the Soviet Secret Police and shipped to Siberia. She lives essentially as a slave with her family, relying on her art and her relationships with those around her to survive. Many of the circumstances around her are absolutely horrendous, but the primary feeling I got from the book is of hope. Hope that the future will be better, that people can be better than they seem, and that Lina will be reunited with those she has been separated from.
The book was beautifully written. The various of characters were realistic and relatable-- even the grouchy ones. There was much exploration of the different sides of human nature that came out in such horrific circumstances. It was both depressing and uplifting.
I couldn't put this one down. I connected with the characters so well, I was desperate to find out what would happen to them. The plot was tightly woven, and it brought me to tears multiple times. I loved learning bits of Lithuanian culture, and learning this often forgotten history of WWII.
I highly recommend this one-- and lucky for you, it comes out this month!