I Must Betray You – Book Review

“Please remember that when adversity is drawn out of the shadows and recognized, we ensure that human beings living under oppression—past and present—know they are not forgotten. Together, we can shine a light in dark corners of the past. Together, we can give history a voice.”—Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You.

Ruta Sepetys’s latest novel is set in Romania in 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe, but tyrannical dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, who has been in power for twenty-four years, still governs by isolation and fear. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

When Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police, they force him to inform on his friends and family to save his grandfather. He risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. Cristian himself is betrayed… but by whom?

This was an extraordinary book. In fact, every book I have read by Ruta Sepetys has been extraordinary. She writes about teens for teens, and although her novels are considered young adult, they are perfect for every reader over fourteen. As usual, her writing is brilliant and masterful, soul-searching and heart-wrenching.

Her research is expansive; she gathered it through archives and personal interviews, and she sheds a bright light on another dark period in history (She has also tackled WWII and the Spanish Civil War). The short, tense chapters are told in Cristian’s voice interspersed with frightening interrogation reports from the secret police. It’s hard to imagine a life of constant surveillance, fear, and hunger during the waning days of communist Romania and Sepetys made me feel like I was there. The author’s note is as good as the book. Wow! I Must Betray You had a profound impact on me, and I highly recommend it. 5 stars.

Published Date: February 2022
Genres: Historical fiction, young adult
Read-alikes: Walls by Laura Elliott, Under the Iron Bridge by Kathy Kacer, The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

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