Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Book Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 1, 2022
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Out of the Easy,
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.  Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe. Cristian 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. But what is the cost of freedom? A gut-wrenching, startling window into communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the number one New York Times best-selling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray."


Cristian Florescu seems like a normal teenager living in the not-so-distant past of 1989 except he lives in communist Romania so he has little to no freedom.  Just like most teenagers, he has things he enjoys and a crush on a girl, but his life becomes extremely complicated when he finds himself forced to become an informant for the secret police.  If he doesn't help them, he will be in even more trouble than before; however, if he does spy on the the family of the American diplomat then they will help him by providing the much needed medicine his grandfather needs. How can Cristian say no? Well, you can't....not to the secret police.  So, he reluctantly enters the world as an informant. However, this all changes when Cristian, along with his teenage friends, realize that there are other countries who have escaped communism.  It's time for a revolution!  I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys is a heart-wrenching and memorable historical novel that takes readers into the world of a youth led rebellion against communist Romania.

Cristian is a relatable protagonist even though he living during extraordinary times in Communist Romania. Like many other teenagers, he loves his family, enjoys poetry, and has a crush on a teenage girl.  May teenagers can relate to him and sympathize with his difficult situation.  It's crazy to think that the only reason he got into the hands of the secret police was because he was carrying a dollar bill with him, which is strictly forbidden.  The rules imposed on Cristian, as well as the other Romanian citizens, are absolutely absurd. It was extremely eye-opening, which leads me to the setting in I Must Betray You.

Readers can always count on Sepetys to bring a time period to life that is lesser known. Actually, I can't think of a young adult author who does it better. Sepetys brought Communist Romania to life in a way that tugged on my heartstrings and many people might not know about when the dictator Ceausescu was in power .  The secret police tucked around every corner made my heart beat rapidly combined with Cristian's espionage was seriously heart pounding.  Children couldn't even walk the streets safely; it's crazy to think that this wasn't very long ago! Also, Sepetys brought the time period to life by including bits of the secret police's memos.  This definitely added to the suspense.

If you are looking for a brilliant historical novel that has major cross-over appeal, I urge you to read I Must Betray You. I not only learned a lot about the time period, but it was such a moving read that will most definitely stay with me. Sepetys is easily one of my favorite authors of historical fiction.

So, are you a fan of Ruta Sepetys? Have you read I Must Betray You? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 



  1. I really need to read more from this author!

    1. She is phenomenal! I hope you get to read her soon! Thanks for visiting, Angela.


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