I Must Betray You

I Must Betray You cover
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

By Ruta Sepetys
Philomel, 2022
336 pages

Age 12 and older

When 17-year-old Cristian Florescu is called to his school office and confronted by a member of the Romanian secret police, the Securitate officer tells Cristian that he and his family won’t be punished for the illegal American dollar Cristian possesses if he’s willing to become an informer. Cristian hates himself for agreeing to spy on the 17-year-old son of the American diplomat his mother works for, but the Securitate officer has promised much-needed medicine for Bunu, Cristian’s beloved grandfather, who has leukemia. Wise, funny Bunu is the most important person in Cristian’s life: He shares his opinions about the government even though the family knows their cramped apartment in Bucharest is bugged, like those of all their neighbors. Having grown up under the brutal Ceauşescu regime, Cristian knows there are spies and informers everywhere; now he is one of them. But Cristian, who writes his thoughts and dreams in a secret journal he hides in the closet where he sleeps, thinks he can outwit the Securitate, even as he begins to wonder if there are greater threats than he realized right within his home. Interspersed with the staccato-paced, first-person, present-tense narrative are top secret State Security reports, giving readers insight into the danger Cristian is in. This tense, riveting thriller captures life in Bucharest in the weeks leading up to the 1989 uprising that ousted Ceaușescu from office, illuminating the physical and psychological cruelty of his oppressive regime and the courage of citizens demanding freedom. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center