Title: I Must Betray You
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: February 1st, 2022 (Penguin)
Synopsis: 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?
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romania under the Communist regime is a dangerous place and people live in fear of the secret police. When seventeen year old Cristian Florescu is blackmailed into becoming an informant, he has no choice and must live with the guilt of betraying everyone around him. But when the task given to him unexpectedly provides an opportunity to expose the atrocities taking place in Romania to the rest of the world, he risks everything to reveal the truth behind the regime through his writing. Communist regimes around Eastern Europe are falling by the day, and when the revolution comes to Romania, Cristian seizes the chance to fight for change.
When it comes to historical fiction, I am usually very hesitant to pick up any books outside the comfort zone of the handful of eras I am familiar with and enjoy reading about. But Ruta Sepetys’ books have always been excellent choices when I want to try something new within the genre, and this time was no exception. I love that this author’s works tend to focus on such a variety of places and eras, particularly those not always written about, and Romania during the Communist regime was a time period I’d never read about before.
It takes a lot of time for any action to begin in this book, but I hardly noticed it when I was reading. The first half of the story portrays how terrible the conditions were for the average citizen in Romania, building up the tension page by page as it becomes clear just how paranoid and fearful a life they were forced to live – and that’s not even counting the food shortages and awful working conditions. The narrative is interspersed with reports about Cristian that the Securitate receives, and the depth of information contained in them really drives in the chilling situation of not being able to trust anyone, even their own family for fear of one of them being Informants.
Cristian was a great narrator and a protagonist who was easy to sympathize with. His relationship with his grandfather was so wonderfully depicted and it was one of my favourite parts of the story. Seeing things through his eyes emphasizes the delicate balancing act he carried out as an Informant, giving the government just enough information that his family would be safe, while also testing how much he could get away with.
I only wish that this book was longer. Once the action started and revolution broke out in the streets, things moved very fast and it felt like it was all over in the blink of an eye. I would have loved for the last couple of chapters to be more extensive, especially given those twists revealed in the epilogue which definitely had me very frustrated that the story was over.
I Must Betray You was an amazing read, and a thought provoking one. With this well researched, powerful narrative, Ruta Sepetys continues to be one of those authors whose books I would add to my TBR blindly. The writing draws the reader into the story and the era so effectively that it was impossible to put this book down. This Rebel Heart, another book which is set in the same era, is on my TBR next month and now that I have a little more background history wise, I’m really looking forward to reading it. I would highly recommend this book for any historical fiction fans!
I Must Betray You releases on February 1st, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.