by Taryn R. Hutchinson
Fifteen-year-old Adriana Nicu lives in the sheltered world of Bucharest, Romania, in the year 1987. Under the rule of Communist president Nicolae Ceaușescu, citizens of Bucharest live with the eyes and ears of the government ever present. Adriana’s future, which will involve becoming an engineer, is locked in against her will.
During a visit to her aunt’s apartment, Adriana walks through a wardrobe into a hidden room filled with stacks of forbidden novels.
Stories bring light into the darkest of circumstances as her family begins to unravel and her life strangely parallels those of her novels’ heroines. Adriana’s childhood loyalties and her belief that God doesn’t exist are called into question as her circumstances force her to rethink things she once believed were certain.
I love how historical fiction can teach you about a part of history you didn’t know about previously. Before reading One Degree of Freedom, I knew very, very little about what life was like in Romania in the 1980s, or even just life under a Communist government in general. But now I do.
One Degree of Freedom mainly follows the life of Adriana, a girl who longs for more freedom than what she’s allowed, especially now that she has discovered the world of books–which are forbidden by the government. But her father is a member of the Communist party and works in the government, which makes things tricky, especially when Adriana’s uncle comes in heavy suspicion by the government. Aside from Adriana’s story, we also get to follow her aunt and friends’ lives as they interact with Adriana’s.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I would enjoy One Degree of Freedom before I read it. But I was pleasantly surprised by it. As I read through the novel, I was slowly drawn into a world where some of my favorite books were illegal, where careers were decided for you, where spies were always listening, and where everyone had a secret.
While the writing style wasn’t quite as complex as most YA novels normally are, it didn’t feel dumbed down or weak. Honestly, I think that it could work as an Upper MG novel, depending on the maturity of the reader, because of the writing style.
I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to accidentally give away any spoilers, but if you enjoy historical fiction or want to know more about Communist Romania, I recommend One Degree of Freedom.
Cautions: light romance; semi-graphic violence