“Mistrust is a form of terror. The regime pits us against one another. We can’t join together in solidarity because we never know whom we can trust or who might be an informer.”Ruta Sepetys, I Must Betray You
Title: I Must Betray You
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genres: Historical Fiction, YA
Pages: 321 (Hardcover)
Published: February 1st, 2022
My Rating: ★★★★★
Read: 8/6/2022 – 8/11/2022
I Must Betray You is the second book I’ve read by Ruta Sepetys and, my goodness, I was not disappointed.
Following seventeen-year-old Cristian, we are brought into the communist regime in Romania during the late 1980s. After being caught accepting a gift of American currency, he’s forced to become an informer, mainly focusing on the American family his mother works for. He has to choose between friendship and his life as well as his family’s.
The story has a strong focus on friendship and the difficulties of maintaining relationships in a place where nobody can trust anybody, even their own families. Cristian’s grandfather speaks more openly about the corruption he’s seen, causing extra worry about listening devices and agents breaking into their own. Cristian already suspects someone close to him has been informing on him given how much the agent who recruited him seems to know.
Through his American friends, Cristian is able to get an honest look at life in America rather than the lies the government has been feeding them. He realizes they have fridges full of food, wait in lines voluntarily, and is mystified by the existence Disneyland. What’s more, is that he finds a photograph of Nicolae Ceaușescu visiting this place. Meanwhile, Romanians are being forced to suffer and live in isolation and fear. Cristian starts to think that maybe he can start to use his role as an informer to his advantage in an act of resistance.
This is an emotional, twisty, action-filled story about a time so overlooked in history. I thought I was well-versed in the Cold War, but this book has taught me otherwise. I never knew they suffered so much as a nation. The end of the book has a number of photographs and quotes from this time which added a lot of context to the story. And though it was fast-paced, it didn’t miss a beat in terms of plot or being able to connect to the characters.
I loved this book as much as I loved The Fountains of Silence if not more. I’m looking forward to reading more from Ruta Sepetys. I’m officially hooked!
Likes & Dislikes:
What I liked:
- The emotion. Even though the chapters were short, so much was able to be conveyed and it made the characters feel lifelike.
- The characters. They were so lovable even through bouts of miscommunication and disagreements.
- The research. The author went above and beyond.
- Some background, quotes, and photographs before and after the book.
- The flow and pacing of the story. Not too much and not too little.
What I didn’t like:
- There were almost too many characters. The ones with smaller roles ended up blurring together.
As I said, I’m officially hooked on Ruta Sepetys’ books. I have Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray sitting on my shelf. I don’t think it will be longer because I pick one of them up. It’s not often I get this attached to YA books, but hers are fantastic.