I Must Betray You | Ruta Sepetys


I Must Betray You; 337 pages

Out now from Hodder Children’s Books

CW: death, illness, torture, political oppression, violence

Author Bio: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and Winner of the Carnegie Medal. Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over sixty countries and have received over forty literary prizes (bio taken from Goodreads).

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“Guilt walks on all fours. It creeps, encircles, and climbs. It presses its thumbs to your throat. And it waits.”

It’s Bucharest in 1989. Cristian Florescu is a 17 year old Romanian living through unrest in Eastern European communist countries. Cristi wants to become a philosopher, but that, like so many other actions and ideologies, is not allowed due to the regime of the Ceaușescus. He spends his time writing in his journal about the extreme poverty and oppression of his people, hoping to one day share it with the world. One day the Securitate, the secret agents who spy on Romanian civilians, catch him in supposed wrongdoings and blackmail him. In order to protect his family and save his sick grandfather, he must spy on a U.S. diplomat’s son. But can he successfully thwart the Securitate’s plans and save his country? Is there anyone he can trust? Or will he snap under the pressure, or worse, be sent to prison?

Cristian is a complex character dealing with internal conflict. He cares deeply about his family and his friends. He’s quick-tempered which often sets him on a course of destruction. Cristian wants to resist the regime and bring democracy back to his country, but feels conflicted because he wants to protect people. This book dives deep into political conflict, human rights, and family dynamics. It’s a very timely book that demonstrates the importance of having a voice. Sepetys’ book is layered with foreshadowing which highlights feelings of paranoia. But most importantly, the book humanizes Cristian. At the end of the day, he’s a 17 year old kid in love, who fights with his parents, and is just trying to get through school. Sepetys shows us that people are more than just numbers. Every person experiencing oppression has a story that deserves to be told. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend adding this YA thriller to your shelves.

PRR Writer and Editor, Ami Jones