A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.
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?
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys is back with a historical thriller that examines the little-known history of a nation defined by silence, pain, and the unwavering conviction of the human spirit.
Praise for I Must Betray You:
"Compulsively readable and brilliant.” –Kirkus, starred review
"An ominously suspenseful historical novel set at the brink of revolution." –Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Sepetys once again masterfully portrays a dark, forgotten corner of history." –Booklist, starred review
"A master class in pacing and atmosphere." –BookPage
Sepetys (The Fountains of Silence) unveils the culture of constant surveillance in communist Romania through an ominously suspenseful historical novel set at the brink of revolution. Under the corrupt authoritarian Ceaus'escu's tenure in 1989 Bucharest, canny aspiring writer Cristian Florescu, 17, keeps his true observations secret as he studies English and jots down illegal thoughts, such as jokes and notes from a contraband travel guide, in a notebook. When an agent of the secret police blackmails him for accepting a dollar of foreign currency from the son of his mother's U.S. diplomat client, and promises life-saving medication for his grandfather, Cristian is forced to inform on his loved ones. Tensions intensify as the teen suspects everyone close to him for the betrayal that led to his blackmail, including best friend Luca, crush Liliana, and even his own family (all characters cue as white), and wrestles with how to use his new position to resist authority. As the betrayals' nuances become clear via interspersed intelligence reports, Cristian's tense first-person narrative foregrounds stark historical realities (families keep an inventory of American cigarettes as black market currency, police ruthlessly beat protesters), unflinchingly confronting deprivations and cruelty while balancing them with perseverance and hope as Romania hurtles toward political change. Back matter includes an author's note. Ages 12 up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Feb.)