I Must Betray You [Book Review] #YoungAdult #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge

March 18, 2022

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Are You Young at Heart?
Do You Have YA Fiction on Your Bookshelf?

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (cover) Image: in a muted blue toned picture, a person walks alone under turbulent skies toward a palace with a flag

Today for the March #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge I’m focusing on “Young Adult” fiction as I bring you a review of I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys.

Every year, I commit to reading a few YA fiction titles. One of my favorite YA histfic authors is Ruta Sepetys….and I’m proud to declare myself a Sepetys completist! You may be familiar with her back list: Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Gray, The Fountains of Silence, and Out of the Easy.

Following today’s review, I’ll list a few of my favorite YA titles.

Do you have a favorite YA author or recomendation?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Genre/Categories/Setting: Young Adult Historical Fiction, Romania, Communism, Freedom

My Summary:

In 1989, Romania is ruled by dictator, Nicalae Ceausescu. Seventeen-year-old Cristian along with other citizens of Romania deal with intimidation, isolation, fear, repression, hunger, blackmail, informants, and having no voice. Cristian is forced into the impossible situation of betraying friends and family. He hears rumors of revolution and yearns to join it. But what can a young man do? How can he make a difference? How will he make his voice heard?

My Thoughts:

Unputdownable: I know a book is in that elusive 5 star range when I read it in ONE day! Engaging from the first page, I Must Betray You will be on my most memorable reads of the year list. Put this into the hands of every mature teen (14+) you know! So relevant to current events. Early Christmas shopping for your favorite reader?! You’re welcome.

Crossover Author: Adults as well as mature teens will enjoy the work of Ruta Sepetys. I’m proud to be a Sepetys completist! She’s one of my auto buy authors. Perhaps you’ve read from her backlist: Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Gray, The Fountains of Silence, Out of the Easy.

History Repeats Itself: I Must Betray You is relevant, timely, sobering, and compelling in light of the current war against Ukraine.

Structure and Writing:  A straighforward timeline, a first person point of view, and a likable main character draw you into the story…..it’s personal and dangerous. I am right there feeling the tension, the helplessness, and desperation. I Must Betray You is a fast-paced page-turner that I read in one day. Clipped sentences, sparse prose, vivid details, and short chapters describe the danger and adds to the dire sense of urgency and bleak reality.

Main Character: I love Cristian and admire his resilience, resourcefulness, and bravery. He keeps a hidden journal in which he writes poetry and documents his fears and dreams. As Cristian faces huge moral dilemmas and faces danger, he gives us a perspective on what it might be like to live under an oppressive government. He inspires young writers and gives us hope that freedom will prevail.

Highly Recommended: I Must Betray You is a must read, and I esthusiastically recommend this unputdownable and compelling story for fans (14+) of relevant historical fiction and for book clubs. Teachers and parents will want to recommend this one!

Content Considerations: poverty, protests and injuries, death

My Rating: 5 Stars


I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (cover) Image: grayscale image of a man standing outside a building holding a blue/yellow/red torn flag

I Must Betray You Information Here

Meet the Author, Ruta Sepetys

Author Ruta Sepetys

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author and Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over fifty countries and have received over forty literary prizes.

For more information:




A Few of My Favorite Young Adult Titles:

(that adults will enjoy as well)

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott (historical fiction)
Salt to the Sea, The Fountains of Silence, and the entire Sepetys backlist (historical fiction)
This Lovely War by Julie Berry (historical fiction)
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (historical fiction)
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (contemporary fiction)
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (contemporary fiction)
The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (historical fiction)
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum (contemporary fiction)
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (contemporary fiction)
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe (historical fiction)
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (contemporary fiction)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction)
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (memoir)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (historical fiction)

 I’m linking up with Deb @ Deb’s World and Sue @ Women Living Well After 50Donna @ Retirement Reflections, and Jo @ And Anyways…. for the March installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge.

Whats On Your Bookshelf Challenge


Do you enjoy an occassional Young Adult read?
What is your favorite YA title?
Is I Must Betray You on your TBR or have you read it?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:

***Blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com


  1. This is on my 2022 TBR already, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I don’t read that many YA books, but I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The audiobook was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and superb.

    Based upon your review, I’m currently The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. Absolutely loving it so far!

    • Happy to hear you’re enjoying Kitchen Front! It’s one of those books that I enjoyed more and more as I read! Love friendship and women supporting women themes! Thanks for the YA rec!

      • What a weekend I had reading! After finishing “The Kitchen Front” (4.5 stars for me), I read “I Must Betray You”. Absolutely fantastic! The decision to write about Romania in 1989 through the eyes of a 17 year old was brilliant. This was a 5-star read for me. An exceptional story that I’ll remember for a long time. Thanks for the review, and making me push the novel up to the top of the TBR list.

  2. I Must Betray You is must reading for teens and adults who want to reach a deeper understanding of humans in difficult situations. I read and reread everything Ruth Sepetys

  3. I don’t read much YA – maybe a title a year. This one sounds, though, like its one I should add to my TBR pile. Thanks for linking up.

  4. Hi Carol. this one sounds like it’s right up my alleY! I do enjoy YA and have recently found a great Australian series called the Matilda Saga by Jackie French and am working my way through the 9 titles. I will definitely add this to my list. Great to have you linking up with us for What’s on your Bookshelf.

  5. I have read three Ruta Sepetys’ books and they were all five stars. I am looking forward to this one. I taught a family whose parents escaped from Romania. I have always wanted to learn more, so this book is perfect. Thanks for the list of YA recommendations, Carol. I have read about half of them, so will check out some of the others.

Leave a Reply