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Sunday, February 20, 2022

Book Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

BOOK review
Started on: 5 February 2022
Finished on: 10 February 2022
Title: I Must Betray You
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 336 pages / 336 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication: 2022
Price: Rp 292,000 (

Rating: 5/5
"Nicolae Ceaușescu. Our beloved leader. Our hero. Maverick of the grand Communist Party of Romania and vampire to the necks of millions. Illegal metaphor? Absolutely."
Romania, 1989. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren't free to dream—they are bound by rules and force of the communist regime. 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 unveil 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—but what is the cost of freedom?
"Does the world know what's happening in Romania? If they did... would they do something?"
"Guilt walks on all fours. It creeps, encircles, and climbs. It presses its thumbs to your throat. And it waits."
"Chills formed at the back of my neck. It was a netless leap. Suicide, some might say.
But I had to try. As the saying goes, better to die standing than live kneeling."
I don't usually read historical fiction books, but if it's written by Ruta Sepetys, I need to read it immediately. I've read several books written by her in the past and so far she never disappoints me. I Must Betray You is yet another book that I love from her. The story is set during Romania's communist era in 1989 which I know absolutely nothing about, but reading this book made me become aware of the horrific days and the suffering that Romanians had to go through to obtain freedom. It didn't take me long to finish reading this book because the story is gripping right from the start and  it has short, impactful chapters that kept me wanting for more. The way the story is written also managed to make me feel the horror of the situation and my nerves were on edge the whole time. I was so emotionally invested in this book that I ended up dreaming about it one time—it was a pretty intense dream that I don't want to repeat 🤣.
"And I noticed something.
The characters in foreign movies had both.
In Romania, jobs were assigned. Apartments were assigned. We had no choice."
"Wisdom—thank god that's something this country can't take from you. But trust no one. Do you hear me? No one. Right now there is no such things as a 'confidant.'"
The story is told from the first-person POV of the main character, Cristian Florescu, who is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. First of all, I have to say that I love Cristian and his narration. I love how reflective his character is, always pondering about life as a Romanian and he continue to ask questions that are thought-provoking. Some passages in this book made me pause and think; made me realize that I've certainly take a lot of things for granted—like being able to eat all kinds of food and the ability to choose, or even having options to begin with. And since we're seeing things from Cristian's perspective, I can't help but be suspicious of all the other characters because anyone can become an informer and there's always a possibility of betrayal. The only person that I can completely trust is Bunu, Cristian's grandfather—one of the best characters in this book who felt like a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the fear and anxiety. The story behind his illness is so heartbreaking and feels so unfair, but it shows how Bunu lived a courageous life that deserves to be respected.

There are a lot of shocking, unexpected moments throughout this book that gave me chills. The whole situation felt so intense that my heart beats faster as I'm reading. I can't say much about the rest of the plot without spoiling everything, but I can safely say that the story ended on a hopeful note—which gives me relief after all the tension that I experienced. However, the epilogue revealed a huge plot twist and it left me with some questions that the author intentionally leave unanswered until the end. The cliffhanger was intended by the author to reflect the feelings of Romanian back in those days because there was no clear or satisfying 'ending' to the communism period. Ruta Sepetys writes, 'As a reader, unanswered questions and sadness may feel frustrating, but it's difficult to grasp how frustrating it must feel for those who actually experienced the events.' I truly admire her decision and was immediately satisfied with the ending, accepting the fact that I have to live with mystery.
"A lie is like a snowball. It rolls, becomes bigger, heavier, and eventually, it's difficult to lift. I had thought I was strong. But how much weight could I actually carry?"
"The efficiency of tyranny! They don't even need weapons to control us. Our own fear is more than enough."
Reading this book was truly an incredible experience and I enjoyed every single second of it. I learned so much about the history of Romania and they lived during the communist era. The fact that they use Kents (Western cigarettes) as a form of currency for bribes/trade, having to stand in line all day just for a can of dented beans, and having their apartments bugged is just unimaginable to me. As I've said earlier, this story made me feel grateful for all the little things that I have and can do right now that I usually take for granted. And I'm also thankful to Ruta Sepetys for writing this historical fiction story that has helped me to know these underrepresented stories from other countries around the world. Definitely looking forward to more books by Ruta Sepetys in the future and learn more historical events through them 😊.
"How many others across Romania were standing on their balconies at the same time, painfully picking at the adhesive, all trying so hard—
To pull the tape from our mouths."
"When we don't know the full story, sometimes we create one of our own. That's what I had done.
And that can be dangerous."
by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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