I Must betray You by Ruta Sepetys,


            I Must betray You by Ruta Sepetys, Philomel, 2022, 9781984836038

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format:  Paperback ARC

Genre: Historical fiction

What did you like about the book? 17-year-old Christian lives with his older sister, Cici, his parents and grandfather in a one-bedroom apartment in Bucharest.  Much of the time there is no heat, electricity or water.  One waits in line for hours to obtain a potato or oil.  All good produce is exported; Romanians get what’s left. Secret Police are spying on everyone all the time, forcing many people into being informers to assist them.  Meanwhile the dictator, Ceausescu and his wife, having fooled the outside world, jet around the world living the life of the obscenely wealthy.  He has forbidden travel outside the country which hardly matters since no one has the money.  Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America are the only links to the rest of the world.  Finally in December, 1989, the people rise up and fight back.  Ceausescu and his wife are executed for crimes against humanity, for genocide.  The chapters are very short causing the story to move really quickly.

Period photos, an Author’s Note, Research and extensive Sources are included.

Sepetys excels.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No.  Being an ARC, the maps in the front of the book are excluded.

To whom would you recommend this book?   It’s interesting how a theme/subject becomes dominant at times.  This story about Communist life in Bucharest, Romania in the twenty years prior to 1989 mirrors Eugene Yelchin’s very funny memoir, The Genius Under the Table, of growing up in Leningrad in the 1960s-1970s.  Another recent graphic biography, Putin’s Russia: The Rise of a Dictator, reveals the same deprivations that are very difficult to imagine anyone surviving. Finally Americans can learn about these periods in history that thousands/millions had to live through and hopefully survive.  It might also be added how easily a Democracy can be lost with a corrupt leader.

Who should buy this book? Upper middle school, high school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction/J Fiction for middle schools

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Contributor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review:  February 17, 2022

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