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Young Adult Fiction 150
A Must Read Book
(Updated: January 21, 2023)
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This is one of those books that makes me feel like a better person for reading and learning about a part of history that is not addressed in American schools even if it was written as historical fiction. I was alive in 1989 and never once have I heard about the bleak existence the Romanian people were surviving under communism and the cult of personality of their long-term dictator back then. This book made the situation very real and visceral for the plight of the people and the complex system of oppression in place.
It is one of those books that I want as many people to read to learn about what happened. This may be a fictional character but the research was thorough and brought to life what is likely to be common occurrences among the population. The dangers that arise from leadership fortified by fanatics and a cult of personality are not just something to worry about in the past.
The little details are woven into the fabric of the story such as Christian not ever eating a banana, not knowing if the things he sees in the bootlegged American films are real or fantasy, and that the casually full American fridge would be enough to feed his entire family for a month was shocking to me. His family always kept coats on because even when they were allowed to have electricity it was never enough to warm up their apartment. He is living in a closet as the only way to have personal space. They speak in whispers in their own home knowing that there is surveillance in every home, every neighbor is a reporter, and even in their own families, there could be patriotic informers. The smothering of potential is keenly felt in a book where few will be allowed out of poverty.
Christian is approached by the secret police for having an American dollar and stamps which is illegal. They use this tiny transgression to strongarm him into becoming an informer. He struggles with being true to his beliefs and protecting his family. The level of betrayal he faces is unimaginable and the situation where he has little choice is thought-provoking. Few could withstand the uncertainty of not knowing whom you can confide in, trust, or just relax around. Every interaction is a cause for concern and to second guess. Everyone’s fear insulates those in power. Even when we think we know which side everyone is on more information comes out that feels like a violation of the very fabric of the nuclear family.
Final Verdict: This is a book that I will be sharing with all my friends and relatives. It is not the fantasy genre that I usually like to read but this historical fiction is a book that makes us grow as citizens of the world.
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