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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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 choic…

I Must Betray You

by Ruta Sepetys

Overall Book Review:

The purpose of historical fiction is to awaken empathy in the reader. It’s to make historical events more than just dull facts in a history book, to make them the stories of people we care about and relate to. It’s to make stories real so that we will remember them, learn from them, and pass them on to others. I Must Betray You is a masterful work of historical fiction.

If you’re offered medicine for a family member in exchange for information about a stranger, what do you do? Romania in 1989 is a place where people can only speak in whispers for fear of who is listening, even in their own homes. Bribery is the only way to get medical treatment and standing in line for hours every day is the only way to get food. When the Securitate blackmails you, what choice do you have? This is the story of a teenage boy who wants his country to change but doesn’t know whom he can trust – and knows he himself doesn’t deserve to be trusted. The setting is heartbreaking, the characters are almost real, and the uncertainty is terrifying. The prose is simple yet distinctive, enhancing the feeling of having a main character who is not a native English speaker and putting emphasis on the story itself.

This is a story that has no winners. A story of hardship, struggle, and so much fear. A story that deserves to be told. I highly recommended it to all readers.

Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy from the Publisher

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations; 2 mild obscenities; 1 religious profanity; 2 derogatory names; 3 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore: A character is blackmailed; a young girl is attacked by stray dogs; report of a baby being killed by dogs; report of a baby dying; a character jokes “I might have to kill you”; a character punches another; a character slaps her son; a character’s relative is found beaten to death, some description of body; report of a character’s death; report of citizens being shot and dying in a political protest; two characters are shot; a character is knocked unconscious and arrested; characters, including children, are beaten and interrogated (4 page scene); report that a character was scalped; brief description of a character’s injuries; a character is beaten; children are forced to clean up pile of human feces with their hands (2 page scene); report of a beating; description of blood on streets; report of many deaths; a character attempts to kill another; report of injuries; report of executions; report of violent death of close relative.

Sex/Nudity: A character has a crush on another; mention of humiliating pregnancy exam women are forced to undergo; characters flirt and embrace; a character asks another on a date; mention of character attempting to seduce another to gain information; a few instances where characters kiss; a few romantic interactions between characters including dates and flirting.

Mature Subject Matter:

Secret police; people disappearing; spying; poverty; communist regime; terminal illness of relative; bribery; fear; death of family member; betrayal; torture.

Alcohol/Drug Use

Characters commonly smoke cigarettes; alcohol and cigarettes are used as bribes.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I was homeschooled from kindergarten to grade 10, which gave me a love for reading. Growing up books were an integral part of my life, and I’ve always been able to make time to read. I’m most widely read in YA fiction, but fantasy is becoming my favorite genre. My free time not spent reading is mostly spent outdoors camping, riding a bicycle, or otherwise enjoying nature. I’m also a science nerd with a special interest in entomology.