Ruta Sepetys has a knack for telling humanitarian crisis stories that have been neglected in the United States with dignity and emotional depth. In Fountains of Silence, she takes on Spain under Francisco Franco as it was opening back up to foreign investors and tourists. The choice to develop a relationship with Spain, despite the known and alleged human rights abuses (which are no longer simply alleged), is a difficult thing to understand, at the level of the individual and diplomatically. Excerpts from US government documents help illuminate the decision behind the diplomatic relationship between the US and Spain. Daniel, one of the protagonists, is visiting Spain with his parents as his father negotiates for oil drilling rights with Franco. He learns about one Spain in the hotel, reading the tourist brochures, and another from Anna, the maid assigned to his family's rooms. Anna's parents were both killed during the revolution and early days of Franco's rule, and she and her siblings live in fear of what could happen next in their lives.
This is not a happy story, but it isn't a story that will leave you sobbing either. Sepetys put in years of research and it shows in the depth of her storytelling and in the care she takes with her characters. I highly recommend this to historical fiction fans, and to YA readers looking for a layered love story.