|I must betray you|
Author: Sepetys, Ruta
In a country governed by isolation, fear, and a tyrannical dictator, seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer, but he decides to use his position to try to outwit his handler, undermine the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country.
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Kirkus Reviews (+) (12/01/21)
School Library Journal (+) (02/01/22)
Booklist (+) (01/01/22)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/01/22)
The Hornbook (00/05/22)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 01/01/2022 *Starred Review* Sepetys (The Fountains of Silence, 2019) once again masterfully portrays a dark, forgotten corner of history: Bucharest, Romania, winter 1989. For nearly 25 years, Romania’s communist dictator Nicolae Ceau?escu and his wife, Heroine Mother Elena, perpetrated unspeakable human-rights abuses on their people. By focusing on one voice, 17-year-old Cristian Florescu, Sepetys amplifies the isolation, fear, and uncertainty experienced during the final months of Ceau?escu’s regime. Cristian shares a tiny apartment with his parents, older sister, Cici, and beloved, rebellious grandfather, Bunu. They speak in whispers and spend hours in line for cooking oil or a single onion. Cristian writes in a journal he hides under the floorboards and dreams of kissing his beautiful classmate, Liliana. When a dollar bill appears in his stamp collection, the secret police use it as leverage to force him to inform on a U.S. diplomat. Cristian’s short, almost breathless first-person chapters are interspersed with chilling interview reports by his assigned Securitate agent. Cristian, Liliana, and their friend Luca join the final uprising, from University Square to notorious Jilava prison. The worst tortures take place offstage, but beatings, mental torment, and near starvation do not. Suspenseful twists continue to the very end, when Cristian’s betrayer is revealed. The back matter, too, is fascinating; it encompasses archival photographs, an author’s note, an extensive source list, and a description of the research process and several in-person interviews. - Copyright 2022 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2022 Gr 9 Up—Sepetys's latest book maintains the caliber readers have come to expect from an author whose focus on hidden histories has made her a YA powerhouse of historical fiction. Cristian is a 17-year-old living in Romania in 1989 with his family in the sterile concrete block housing that Ceausescu's communist state allows, with little to eat and no liberties. When Cristian reluctantly agrees to become an informer to protect his grandfather, nothing is sacred: not his budding relationship with Liliana, not his friendship with Luca, and not his musings about Romania in a notebook that will be a tool to fight back, if he makes that choice. Romania blossoms under Sepetys's attention to detail which comes from personal interviews, archival research, and traveling. These complexities are then infused into the setting and cast of characters whose surveillance means betrayal lurks everywhere, evidenced by the secret reports resourcefully sprinkled into the narrative. Mysterious as it is thrilling, the book's short chapters create an atmosphere of impending danger leading to a historical event in Eastern Europe that may be unknown to many yet is necessary to be told. The impending revolution pressurizes Cristian's next move, reminiscent of Matt Killeen's Orphan Monster Spy that blurs the line of good and evil. VERDICT Sepetys is a formidable writer, and her stories declare the need to write about global issues of social injustice. For that reason and her attention to detail, this is a must-read.—Alicia Abdul - Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.