Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
ISBN: 9781984836038

17-year-old Cristian’s family, like everyone else’s in 1989 Romania, is suffering under the yoke of Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime. Food is scarce, listening devices and spies are ubiquitous, and dissent is quickly stamped out under the threat of imprisonment. When Cristian is picked up by the secret police, the Securitate, he is blackmailed into informing on the son of an American diplomat in order to help save his ill grandfather. Dismayed at being forced to betray a friend, Cristian turns to recording his dangerous thoughts into a hidden notebook.

This fast-paced work of historical fiction focuses on an era many readers may not be aware of. Fans of dystopian fiction as well as historical fiction will be aghast at the level of oppression and manipulation Romanian citizens endured for decades under the rule of strongman dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. Extensive supplemental materials, including photos, an author’s note, and recommendations for further research, help drive home the realities of life under Ceaușescu as well as the bloody revolution that ended his reign in 1989.

Fans of Ruta Sepetys’s other works of historical fiction will not be disappointed. For readers interested in learning more about what life was like in former Communist countries, Walls by L.M. Elliott or House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker would be strong choices.

-Courtney Waters

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.