Book Review

ARC Book Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: YA Historical Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: PenguinTeen
Release Date: February 1st, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


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 choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?

Thank you to publisher, PenguinTeen for an eARC.


One of my favorite things about Sepetys as a writer is her clear effort in researching the history of whatever book she’s writing. I also love that most of her books are from more niche areas of history that I don’t know a lot about. They continually inspire me to look up more information and learn even more about the subject.

A bit slow paced in the first half as we watched Cristian go through the day-to-day life of what it was like in communist Romania. The visceral depictions of fear and oppression was at times hard to read. The short chapters kept the book moving steadily as the tension increased on a country tired of being held back.

I liked Cristian as a main character and his heartfelt desire to do right by his family and also do right by himself. His touching inner monologue of wanting more and suffering because of it, but then finally being able to reach a path that would lead to hope. I would have loved a bit more character development for everyone to really feel attached to them.

The intensity of the second half unleashed the betrayals, the riots and moments of clarity. While I didn’t love how the book ended, once reading the author’s note and history in the back of the book (don’t forget to do that!!) it all made sense as the type of writing choice I Must Betray You needed. Another great and informative historical fiction for Sepetys!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Historical Fiction
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: depictions of poverty, a loved one beaten to death (aftermath is witnessed), murder, riots, mass loss of life, gun violence, near death experiences

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