Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: YA Historical
Publication Date: May 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 452 Pages
ISBN-10: 1405258217 (Hyperion Books)
ISBN-13: 978-1405258210 (Hyperion Books)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
Quick & Dirty: Heartbreaking. Humorous. Sensational writing. Phenomenal narrator. And this emotional roller-coaster has left me without enough words to encapsulate how I’m feeling.
Opening Sentence: I am a coward.
Code Name Verity begins with our narrator as she gives up. She’s not strong, she’s not unbreakable. The fact is, she breaks rather quickly — first exchanging lines of code for items of clothing and then promising to write down everything she can possibly remember about the British military. She has two weeks and all the paper she can write on to fill up with treason. And she writes. Selfishly and passionately because she does not want to die. But she will, because that’s what you do to enemy spies.
She tells the story of Maddie, her best friend in this secretive world of intelligence and night raids. How Maddie began dreaming of flying after a pilot crash landed in a field near her picnic and turned out to be a girl. How she began as a radio operator when the war started and moved her way up to ferry pilot, helping move supplies and bomber pilots around Britain. The only reason she’s signing this treasonous at all is because she looked the wrong way crossing the street in front of the wrong people who blew her cover. Reliving it all through Maddie’s perspective as she writes, our narrator gets to escape from herself, from the way everything seemed when she wasn’t trapped in a cell. When she still had her bravery.
It’s through Maddie that our narrator is revealed to be a Swiss boarding school and Oxford student with a head for German literature who’s fluency in French and German made her perfect for the War Effort. That Maddie is revealed to be modest, caring and in love with flying. Within the first few pages, your emotionally invested, but by the time the chapter’s are over these characters are real. There is so much invested in these characters and their unique situations and their specific qualities that the weight of the book increases tenfold. Maddie and our narrator have continued to haunt me, enough that this book will probably be one I read again down the road.
I don’t want you to think I cried my way through this book. It tore at my soul and yeah, I did cry, but it made me laugh too. Trying to explain how a book about a girl being tortured can make you laugh out loud is pretty much impossible, so just trust me when I say that our author imbues this book with the perfect tone, illuminates the prose with humor at just the right moment. It’s not an easy read, though. If you’re expecting to get through it in an afternoon or two just because it’s short, you should put it off for another time. Because you can’t race through this book. It’s just not possible. It’s too gripping and the characters are too deep for you to even want to speed-read once you get started.
This book is one of my absolute favorites. That being said, it is definitely not an easy read. It’s harsh and it’s real and graphic because that’s the reality of war. But if you pick it up, you won’t regret it. This review has barely touched the surface of what the book’s about, because anything else would give it away and the gasp-out-loud moments are one of the greatest parts of this book. I have never read a book like it. Certainly not in the young adult genre — not like the writing or story. I finished it yesterday and have a book-hangover. I really doubt the feeling will leave anytime soon.
She set about lighting the cigarettes and announced in her brisk, straightforward French, “I don’t want to waste my time listening to propaganda. It’s my job and I’m wise to it. I’ll be frank with you–I’m looking for truth. Je cherche la vérité.”
“Your accent is frightful,” I answered, also in French. “Would you repeat that in English?”
“She did–taking no insult, very serious, through a pall of smoke.
“I’m looking for verity.”
FTC Advisory: Hyperion Books provided me with a copy of Code Name Verity. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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