Summary (from the publisher):
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?
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite all-time authors and hands-down my favorite historical fiction author. As a Holocaust Studies minor in college and now English teacher, I’ve been more selective about the historical fiction I’ve picked up over the past few years, and I definitely favor non-fiction over historical fiction when it comes to history. However, Ruta Sepetys is such an auto-read author for me because her books always bring light to neglected or less discussed historical events.
Her latest release, I Must Betray You, is set in 1989 Romania until the communist regime led by dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. I’ve learned about communism and the Eastern Bloc post World War II, but I had never particularly learned about the horrifying conditions and totalitarian government in Romania in the 1980s before reading this book. The book follows seventeen year old Cristian, who is forced to become an informer for the secret police. In exchange for finding out information on the American family his mother works for, the secret police will provide medicine for Cristian’s ill grandfather. Cristian wishes for the atrocities committed in Romania to be unveiled & risks his life in doing so, while not being able to trust anyone around him.
I read I Must Betray You within 24 hours, based on the book’s writing style and the fact that I just needed more. The book has very short chapters, anywhere from 1-5 pages each, that make it easy to just keep going. Ruta Sepetys’ writing style is among my absolute favorites – she has such a way of being straight-to-the-point & plot driven while also using such vivid figurative language Every time that I contemplated putting the book down, the chapter would end with a cliff hanger or revelation that made me want to keep reading until the end. There’s twist after twist, even through the book’s ending.
As mentioned before, I Must Betray You is an absolute shock to those who have not learned about Romania in the 1980s. I was absolutely horrified by the events and crimes committed by the Romanian secret police & government against people like Cristian, along with the general life conditions then. While terrifying to think about, I liked how we mostly received Cristian’s first person POV while also reading the secret police’s reports on Cristian and other informers & people the government was watching.
Overall, I highly recommend reading I Must Betray You and Ruta Sepetys’ entire collection. Always, ALWAYS read the author’s note, research, & acknowledgment pages in Ruta Sepetys’ books because she provides so much background information and her overall experience researching and writing the book. Although I always want more of her writing, her books are always worth the wait based on the dedication and research she puts into each of her extremely well-written novels.
Have you read I Must Betray You? Have you read any of Ruta Sepetys’ books? Which is your favorite? Share in the comments!