Cover Image: I Must Betray You

I Must Betray You

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Member Reviews

Rita sepetys never disappoints. The research she puts in to every book gives you the feeling you are there and immersed into the place. I learn so much from her books and this one made me go and look up about Romanian history. Fabulous just read it!
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I spent a lot of time debating if this would be four or five stars as it wasn’t as gripping as I first anticipated (having been recommended it by someone only a few chapters in themselves), but once it found its feet, it packed a punch. As ever, Sepetys built a strong historical context with knowledge and skill that translated to even the most ignorant of reader when it came to this setting (and I was definitely among them), yet at the same time didn't resort to an info-dump or leave said reader languishing in confusion for much of the book whilst things were gradually explained. 

The characterisation was phenomenal, too. At times, it can be argued that they come across a little vague, but this is ultimately used to the best of effect portraying the communal uncertainty around identity and trust which is a big theme of the book. This is, of course, further aided by the twists and turns that help keep the reader on their toes, especially in times of heavy character-focus. 

Once again, Sepetys delivers a high quality and thought-provoking read that definitely inspires deeper probing into some less famous points of recent history.
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I Must Betray You follows 17-year-old Cristian Florescu as the fall of a communist dictatorship approaches. After false promises of life-saving medication for his Grandfather, Cristian (unwillingly) becomes an informant for his enemies. 

A conspiracy of silence is a reigning theme with families and loved ones hiding secrets from each other. No one is safe, no one has access to privacy, even in the confines of their own homes. 

Fear, suppression, and utter horror are splattered across the pages of this extremely well-researched and emotive novel.  Ruta truly does the Romanian victims of oppression justice through her writing, telling very real stories through her historical fiction novels. Another excellent book, this author is quickly becoming an auto-buy for me.

Fantastic pacing, fast-moving yet detailed, this book is certainly a highly recommended read. 4.5 stars out of 5.
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I loved this book. Ruta did an amazing job of setting up the world and really showing what life was like in 80s Romania. The characters were all believable and tension flowing between them and the whole story made me devour this book.
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What an excellent book. Rita Sepetys has done it again with another fabulous YA historic novel that sheds light on little known European history. This time we follow Cristian who lives in the dictatorship of Romania in the 1980s. He struggles with day to day life as every aspect of his world is lived under a microscope. Sepetys expertly weaves a net around Cristian so he becomes suspicious of everyone in his life, including his best friend, his girlfriend and even his family. Who can he trust? How can he survive? Will he ever escape?
An excellent book.
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"I Must Betray You" is another example of Ruta Sepetys' utterly captivating style. She always opens new horizons and pushes the boundaries of the YA historical genre, and here the Romanian Revolution and the realities of the barbaric practices of the government at the time is the focal point, seen through the eyes of seventeen year old Cristian.  As with her other books, Sepetys focuses on young people and how conflict affects them. So many young readers will be completely unaware of Romania's history. Cristian's story is raw, brutal, and the short chapters create such a pace in the narrative that at times, the reader is left breathless and completely immersed in his story. It is an outstanding read.
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I received a copy in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: Romania is under the control of communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, as it has been for a LONG time. Everyone's actions are monitored and spies are everywhere. Imagine living in a society with no freedom, no choice and sometimes where the only option is to betray your country to save your loved ones. Women must have children and risk them being taken off of them. 

Cristian is forced into becoming a spy, an informer, a rat with the hope for freedom and defeating the system. Would you risk joining the revolution?

The world building is bleak and intense, as I was reading I felt as though I was there in 1980s Romania with Cristian. 

For me, it took a few chapters to get going but after that it kept me engaged to the last page. I went through moments of extreme anxiety and then to fleeting happiness whilst reading I Must Betray You but the most important theme is hope. Hope for a better future and the idea of never up and searching for someone to trust.

4 Stars in my Sky!
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Ruta Sepetys is one of the best writers of historical fiction for young adults. Her previous novels have told powerful stories of young lives affected by oppressive regimes in Stalinist Lithuania, Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain; in 'I Must Betray You', she turns to more recent history by writing about the final months of Ceaușescu's Romania in 1989. 

The novel is narrated in short chapters by 17-year-old Cristian Florescu who dreams of freedom but, like all Romanians, lives under a constant fair of surveillance. He is targeted by the Securitate, Ceaușescu's secret police, and forced to spy on the son of an American diplomat whose house his mother cleans but is desperate to make use of this situation to tell the truth about life in Romania, However, he soon finds himself wondering whether he can trust anyone - his friend Luca, his girlfriend Liliana or even his own family. 

Sepetys combines Cristian's personal quest for freedom with the fall of the Iron Curtain around Europe and the Romanian Revolution, but she avoids sugar-coating this landmark moment in Romanian history. Many of the descriptions of violence in the novel's later chapters are shocking in their brutality, and the epilogue reminds us that the pursuit of liberty is never finished. 

I found this another very impressive and important historical novel in which Sepetys manages to convey not only the material hardships of life for ordinary Romanian citizens but also the psychological impacts of constant surveillance, the compromises many Romanians had to make, and, most importantly, the resilience and fortitude of those who fought for freedom.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel to review.
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Wow, what a story. Reluctant informer Cristian lives in Communist Romania, a country where allegiance to the state is more important than family, where the people are starving and brutalised and loyalty to those you love can cost you your life. Where homes are under surveillance and political prisoners disappear. Rumours that the Berlin Wall has fallen encourages students to rebel against the regime.
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Absolutely fascinating read about a part of modern history that I knew very little about. I enjoyed every page and really did not want to put it down.
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A new book from Ruta Sepetys is always a treat and this is no exception to the usual meaty, well-researched novels at which she excels. This time it is about the harsh, brutal regime in Romania in the second half of the 20th century. As a young child I saw the news footage of Romanian orphans but didn’t question the reasons behind this. Ruta’s story explores the lives lived out in the country at the time. It sounds dystopian - a reign of terror with informants controlling the population, executions, secret police, little access to the outside world and women forced to carry babies they didn’t want. The characters bring to life the effects this had on citizens, old and young. Will Cristian save his Grandfather’s life by informing, or will he put everyone’s lives at risk by refusing to betray his family?
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Here is my 50 Word Review of I Must Betray You by the amazing Ruta Spetys

Another stunner from Sepetys, the focus this time is Romania, an often unheard history. The story of Christian, a young man with dreams, is seamlessly woven into the poverty, cruelty, isolation, and fear of dictatorship, from which rises revolution and hope. Both devastating and uplifting, a triumph of historical fiction.
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A book about the Romanian revolution seemed an unlikely book for me to want to read. I think part of the appeal was because it was something I really didn’t know anything about, surely it couldn’t have been that bad if I hadn’t heard much about it? 
How wrong I was. This is a dark story of a brutal regime. The author does an excellent job of detailing the horrors of living there during those times. I particularly liked the way she illustrated how normal it was to them by having Cristian wondering things like, how many hours do you have to queue for food in other countries?
As the revolution gathers pace so does the story and along with Cristian you have to work hard to find out who you can trust. A fascinating and well researched story.
I couldn’t give the story 5 stars though, as I just didn’t feel that strongly about the characters. Somehow amongst all the detail they got a bit lost.
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It's so amazing what you can learn from reading. My knowledge on Romania is not great so i learnt a fair bit reading this book.
The plot really had you thinking about the choices that had to be made by a teenage boy that i would have never had to make.
Reading this book makes you realise how lucky we are to live how we do and we are free to live how we want too.
A great read full of compassion, anger and love. i could not put this down.
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This is such a good way into historical fiction for young adults. It taught me as an adult looks of information that I didn’t know. I was hooked all the way to the ending.
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Wow. I have literally just put the book down and all I can say is wow. 

This book is special. A YA historical fiction with pace, understanding and raw emotion. I was pretty much hooked from the outset. I have to say, I haven't read a book like this before. I was a little unsure of what to expect and how the issues could be covered meaningfully whilst sticking to the YA feel. But the author has reached near perfection. 

Let's start with the characters. Christi is genuine and likeable. He is someone you can't help but root for. He is flawed and at times he does seem younger than his years, but in some respects I wonder if this doesn't reflect the decade and the life a 17 year old would live in Romania. Bunu was so real and so alive. I was horrified by his fate, but heartened by the note he left and the words of the stranger in the crowd. Christi's father's awakening was also timely and felt important. It wasn't big, but it marked a shift in mood. Cici; well, I'm lost for words. Let's just say, you have to read the epilogue. Or maybe you don't. Thinking about it now I wonder if it isn't like the question Christi poses - is it indeed better to know? And his mum. I had guessed as much. She was a character I never quite warmed to. 

It wasn't just the characters which were good, the pace was blazing. I literally read this in two sittings. It was told at blistering speed and in vivid technicolor. I was transported to the scene and I can honestly say my heart was racing in the final chapters. 

I don't think I will forget about this book. It's the kind of book which makes anything else seem dull and so I'm not really sure I should read anything else just yet. People always talk about books you can't out down, well this is one. You want to race to the end, but your heart aches as you turn the final page. 

This book deserves to be read. These people deserve to be remembered.
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Harrowing and illuminating account of the Romanian totalitarian rebellion.

Like many others, this is a regime I hadn't learned about, either through schooling or my own reading. Like Communist China or Russia, the human stories are what pull you into the history and horrors, and Sepetys does a superb job in showing us the conditions, the mental torture and the inhumanity of this particular place and time.

It's sick, when you look at it. A country of people all spying on each other. Family, friends, colleagues, forced to report on each other's activities for 'rewards' (i.e. not being thrown in prison, or for essential supplies). Cristian is 17 and living in totalitarian-controlled Romania when he finds himself 'outed' for an infraction, and told he too must become an informer.

He has lived his whole life under the regime of the Hero leader and his wife, living in ghetto-like housing, queueing for rationed (and minimal) food, yet it is only the potential reward of medicine for his grandfather dying from leukaemia that pushes him to accept.

Watching Cristian and his friends try to be teenagers while still turning on taps to hide their conversations, avoid bugged telephones and hide their illicit Coca Cola drinking in dark alleys, it's upsetting. A bittersweet smile came to my lips watching a group of adolescents crowd illegally into a living room to watch a dubbed copy of Die Hard.

Cristian's grandfather is the voice of reason, of the people, of the revolution, in almost every phrase he utters. Wise and old, you can see he knows he's going to get in trouble but is past caring and knows what is right and what is not. His influence on Cristian is explicit.

There is a lot to see - the effect of the regime on all members of a family, what happens when someone dies, how relationships can possibly spring up despite everything, what happens to friendships when tested... Cristian has sister, friend, potential girlfriend, he has those he is meant to spy on. We experience a full world of Romania.

And then we also see Revolution. It's not pretty. I actually teared up in the final third, it was horrific. Warning here: some fairly graphic scenes of violence ahead. But credit to the author, nothing is shied away from. Happy endings didn't really happen.

The author shares at the end her writing of the book, that many who lived through these times shared their stories and that these fed into her writing. It feels authentically captured, and I imagine many like myself will take the internet to research this for themselves and feel stunned it wasn't on their radar before now.

A piece of history in fiction, teenagers will empathise with those not so different from themselves but be forced to see what the world has done and continues to do when we allow this to happen.

Powerful, upsetting and very well written. For ages 14+ ideally.

With thanks to Netgalley for providing a sample reading copy.
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