I won an ARC at a convention. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Historical Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: torture
Trapped by an evil dictatorship, will Cristian be forced to betray his family or will he risk everything he loves to resist?
Cristian has lived his entire life in the grip of a repressive dictatorship. The country is governed by fear. When the secret police blackmail him, Cristian has an impossible choice. Save the life of his sick grandfather by informing on his family, or risk his life – and all of theirs – by resisting?
At 17, Cristian dreams of being free but doesn’t know where to turn. In this climate of constant suspicion, can he trust his best friend, his girlfriend or even his family?
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I MUST BETRAY YOU is another engaging, hard to put down, and challenging book from Ruta Sepetys. It’s a tense thriller where no one can be trusted and danger always lurks around the corner as Cristian is trapped in the secret police’s web.
The atmosphere of fear is very well crafted. The fact no one can be trusted, that buildings might be bugged, and information is hard to come by creates an isolating effect that is explored through his notebook and questions. Plus there is the struggle between informing on people (thus possibly creating a pocket of safety around him and getting medication for his sick grandfather) and defying the secret police.
This is, in some way, a difficult book to read. It’s about a horrible chapter in history that I didn’t know much about, and it doesn’t’ shirk away from the horrors perpetrated by the regime. It’s certainly a book I recommend is read, but it is bleak (because anything else would feel wrong and disrespectful to the topic at hand.)
The narration doesn’t say “this is unusual, this is wrong” outright. Instead, it is far more powerful because it stick firmly in the mindset of someone who doesn’t know any other way of life, and so wonders if it’s the same everywhere, if the American movies smuggled in are all fantasy or not. That uncertainty, lack of understanding about the world beyond, normalised the situation for Cristian, and made the isolation and extreme injustice of his life all the starker.
Interspersed among Cristian’s chapters are reports from the secret police. They largely detail the events we’ve scene, but from a watcher’s perspective with some additional details added in. It helped add to the tension and uncertainty, that constant surveillance to see the events pared back to unemotional details and threats against characters’ lives.
Read my reviews of other books by Ruta Sepetys: