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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

26 / 40 books. 65% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

25 / 100 books. 25% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Friday, March 25, 2022

Sepetys' Newest A Powerful, Propulsive Cautionary Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After more than two decades under the totalitarian rule of President Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania is coming apart at the seams. In financial ruin, the country is beset by shortages of food, medicine, water, and other necessities, making daily life for the average citizen exceptionally bleak. To make matters worse, Ceausescu's spies are always watching. They turn desperate people into informers, turning neighbor against neighbor, causing widespread fear and paranoia. With the government controlling Romania's media and news outlets, the truth of its plight is kept hidden.

Cristian Florescu, a 17-year-old student, just wants to live a normal life. He longs to spend his days peacefully penning poetry and wooing his pretty neighbor. Instead, he worries about his frail grandfather, who's growing increasingly ill without access to the cancer treatments he needs. When the secret police nab Cristian for a minor infraction, they force him to become their spy. In return, he will not be imprisoned and his beloved grandpa will receive care. Cristian has little choice but to comply. Or does he? Can he use his unique position to fight for the freedom of his people? Is it worth it if it costs him everything—and everyone—he loves?

Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction for teens. Her newest novel, I Must Betray You, is just another excellent example of why I love her work so much. The book is illuminating, for one, bringing attention to a forgotten piece of world history. I knew nothing of Romania's struggles under communist rule. Sepetys' careful research, which involved talking to Romanians who lived through the events recounted in the book, brings the situation to life in a way that is atmospheric, tense, grim, and heartbreakingly intimate. Her prose echoes the novel's setting and subject matter, with a starkness that helps the reader really feel the characters' anxiety, paranoia, helplessness, and desperation. Short chapters keep the pacing on target, adding suspense to an already compelling tale. Despite all the bleakness, the novel does end on a hopeful note. Although it's an unhappy story with a realistically messy ending, I Must Betray You is a riveting, moving book and a powerful cautionary tale about the horror that results when a country is governed by a greedy, hateful megalomaniac. This is an incredible work of historical fiction and Sepetys at her very best (although it's actually not my favorite of her novels). I can't encourage you enough to read it.  

(Readalikes: Reminds me of books about life in Nazi Germany as well as in communist countries like North Korea)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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