Friday Reads: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Romania, 1989.  Cristian Florescu (17) and his family are barely surviving the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu.  There are spies everywhere, and due to a small mistake, now Cristian is forced to spy on his neighbors and the family his mother cleans house for, an American who works for the American Embassy. 

Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, for good reason.  Only Cristian’s grandfather, called Bunu, is willing to speak out loud – but he is ill, and is taking a risk every time he talks.  There is some comedy relief – as Bunu and others delight in jokes about Ceaușescu and the regime.

Cristian finally comes up with an idea that may outsmart the spies – but it could cost him his life.  The horrible conditions – little food, little warmth in winter, suspicions, beatings, despair, the threat of wild dogs – are clearly portrayed.  Cristian wonders if anyone in the U.S. is aware of their circumstances and their level of need.  It has been so hard to visit the home of the American diplomat and know he cannot say anything to ask for help for his country.

The revolution began on Dec. 21, 1989. Cristian joins it.

Includes period photos, references, and an Author’s Note at the back of the book.  This title is fiction and is aimed at high school age readers.

Sepetys, Ruta. (2022). I Must Betray You. Philomel Books.

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