Review of I Must Betray You

I Must Betray You I Must Betray You
by Ruta Sepetys
Middle School, High School    Philomel    340 pp.  g
2/22    978-1-9848-3603-8    $18.99

Cristian has grown up under the dictatorship of Ceauşescu in Communist Romania. Now it’s October 1989, and he’s conditioned to life in his family’s cramped apartment; to queuing for meagre, awful food; and to whispering indoors to avoid the surveillance of the brutal secret police, the Securitate. Then a Securitate agent blackmails him into becoming an informant. The agent has the power to destroy his future and family, so what can Cristian do? At the cost of trust, friendship, and romance, he must play along—at least until he joins the thousands of Romanians who rise up to overthrow Ceauşescu and the Securitate. Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, rev. 5/11; The Fountains of Silence, rev. 9/19) paints a nuanced picture of the effects of the deprivation, anxiety, and fear created and upheld by Ceauşescu’s tyrannical rule. In quick, economical language, she provides historical detail and shows readers a context in which one contraband can of Coke can result in a police report, but also one in which the courage and solidarity of youth can change a country’s oppressive regime. Back matter includes photos, an author’s note with historical background, and a note on research and sources.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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