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I Must Betray You
Cover of I Must Betray You
I Must Betray You
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A #1 New York Times and National Bestseller! A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York...
A #1 New York Times and National Bestseller! A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York...
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  • A #1 New York Times and National Bestseller!
     
    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:
     
    “As educational as it is thrilling...[T]he power of I Must Betray You [is] it doesn’t just describe the destabilizing effects of being spied on; it will make you experience them too.” New York Times Book Review
     
    “A historical heart-pounder…Ms. Sepetys, across her body of work, has become a tribune of the unsung historical moment and a humane voice of moral clarity.”The Wall Street Journal
    * "Sepetys brilliantly blends a staggering amount of research with heart, craft, and insight in a way very few writers can. Compulsively readable and brilliant." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
    * "Sepetys once again masterfully portrays a dark, forgotten corner of history." Booklist, starred review
     
    * "Sepetys’s latest book maintains the caliber readers have come to expect from an author whose focus on hidden histories has made her a YA powerhouse of historical ­fiction…Sepetys is a formidable writer, and her stories declare the need to write about global issues of social injustice. For that reason and her attention to detail, this is a must-read." School Library Journal, starred review
    * "Cristian’s tense first-person narrative foregrounds stark historical realities, unflinchingly confronting deprivations and cruelty while balancing them with perseverance and hope as Romania hurtles toward political change." Publishers Weekly, starred review
     
    “Sepetys keeps readers riveted to this vivid, heartbreaking and compelling novel, locked into every meticulously researched detail. I Must Betray You demands a full investment from its audience—through poetic writing, sympathetic characters, revolutionary plot and pacing, it grips the heart and soul and leaves one breathless.”Shelf Awareness, starred review
    "A master class in pacing and atmosphere." BookPage

     

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    1

    Unu

    Fear arrived at five o’clock.

    It was October. A gray Friday.

    If I had known? I would have run. Tried to hide.

    But I didn’t know.

    Through the dim half-­light of the school corridor I spotted my best friend, Luca. He walked toward me, passing the tedious sign shouting from the concrete wall.

    New Men of Romania:

    Long live Communism—­the bright future of mankind!

    At the time, my mind churned on something far from communism. Something more immediate.

    School dismissed at 7:00 p.m. If I left at the right moment, I’d fall into step with her—­the quiet girl with the hair hiding her eyes. It would feel coincidental, not forced.

    Luca’s tall, thin frame edged in beside me. “It’s official. My stomach’s eating itself.”

    “Here.” I handed him my small pouch of sunflower seeds.

    “Thanks. Did you hear? The librarian says you’re a bad influence.”

    I laughed. Maybe it was true. Teachers referred to Luca as “sweet” but said I was sarcastic. If I was the type to throw a punch, Luca was the type to break up a fight. He had an eagerness about him, while I preferred to evaluate and watch from afar.

    We paused so Luca could talk to a group of loud girls. I waited, impatient.

    Hei, Cristian,” smiled one of the girls. “Nice hair, do you cut it with a kitchen knife?”

    “Yeah,” I said softly. “Blindfolded.” I gave Luca a nod and continued down the hall alone.

    “Pupil Florescu!”

    The voice belonged to the school director. He lingered in the hallway, speaking with a colleague. Comrade Director shifted his weight, trying to appear casual.

    Nothing was ever casual.

    In class, we sat erect. Comrade Instructor lectured, bellowing at our group of forty students. We listened, stock still and squinting beneath the sickly light. We were marked “present” in attendance but were often absent from ourselves.

    Luca and me, we wore navy suits and ties to liceu. All boys did. Girls, navy pinafores and white hair bands. Embroidered badges sewn onto our uniforms identified which school we attended. But in the fall and winter, our school uniforms weren’t visible. They were covered by coats, knitted mufflers, and gloves to combat the bitter cold of the unheated cement building.

    Cold and dark. Knuckles aching. It’s hard to take notes when you can’t feel your fingers. It’s difficult to concentrate when the electricity snaps off.

    The director cleared his throat. “Pupil Florescu,” he repeated. “Proceed to the office. Your father has left a message for you.”

    My father? My father never came to school. I rarely saw him. He worked twelve-­hour shifts, six days a week at a furniture factory.

    A slithering knot coiled inside my stomach. “Yes, Comrade Director.”

    I proceeded to the office as I was told.

    Could outsiders understand? In Romania, we did as we were told.

    We were told a lot of things.

    We were told that we were all brothers and sisters in communism. Addressing each other with the term “comrade” reinforced that we were all equal, with no social classes to divide us. Good brothers and sisters in communism followed rules.

    I pretended to follow rules. I kept things to myself, like my interest in poetry and philosophy. I pretended other things too. I pretended to lose my comb, but really just preferred my hair spiky. I pretended not to notice when girls...

About the Author-

  • Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a "crossover" novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RutaSepetys.

    Edoardo Ballerini has been nominated for several Audie awards and is the recipient of multiple Earphones awards from AudioFile magazine. His screen credits include the feature films Dinner Rush and Romeo Must Die, as well as the television series The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and 24. To learn more, visit edoardoballerini.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 20, 2021
    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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Edoardo Ballerini masterfully conveys the unrelenting stress on 17-year-old Cristian Florescu, who lives in Bucharest, Romania, in the winter of 1989. Ballerini makes the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu palpable, as well as Cristian's adoration of his Bunu, his loving grandfather. To save the ailing man, Cristian agrees to take on an informer role in exchange for medicine. But instead of relief, Cristian experiences a tightening noose of hunger, isolation, and fear. Ballerini portrays a complex character whose passion for poetry and philosophy, first crush, and love of family contrast with the betrayal he's willing to commit. Ballerini's pacing enhances the suspense and twists in this first-person narrative. Ruta Sepetys's straightforward back matter provides historical context to a gripping story. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2022, Portland, Maine

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