I Must Betray You


Trust no one.
Tell no one
Spies are everywhere.

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?

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Praise for I Must Betray You

Oprah Daily

“Ruta is passionate about the power of history and fiction to foster awareness and connectivity. In this book, she opens a startling window into the real-life coerced citizen spy network—including teenagers as young as thirteen—that bred an atmosphere of paranoia and fear, as people were forced to inform on one another.”

The Wall Street Journal

“A historical heart-pounder.”

(starred review)

School Library Journal 

“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.”

(starred review)


“Sepetys once again masterfully portrays a dark, forgotten corner of history.” 

(starred review)

Kirkus Reviews 

“Compulsively readable and brilliant… A staggering amount of research with heart, craft, and insight.”

(starred review)

New York Times Book Review 

“The 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.”


“A master class in pacing and atmosphere.” 

Shelf Awareness 

“Sepetys keeps readers riveted to this vivid, heartbreaking and compelling novel, locked into every meticulously researched detail . . . Through poetic writing, sympathetic characters, revolutionary plot and pacing, it grips the heart and soul and leaves one breathless.” 

(starred review)

Discussion Resources

I Must Betray You Educators Guide

I Must Betray You Educator’s Guide

Educational guide for classrooms with pre-reading, discussion questions, and extension activities.

I Must Betray You Discussion Guide

Discussion guide for book clubs and classrooms created by the Penguin Random House School and Library department.

Chuck Norris vs. Communism 

An award-winning documentary about the transformational impact that movies smuggled in from the West had in 1980s Romania.