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Cook. Read. Sing. Sleep. I go hard.

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity CoverTitle: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth E. Wein
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis:

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, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Review:

Elizabeth Wein has penned a book that will stay with me forever. Code Name Verity is an example of the depths of love one can have for their best friend. What I really loved about this book is that it has two strong female characters as leads. They aren’t weighed down by trying to find affection with a man. They are involved with the affairs of war and are skilled at what they do.

I feel compelled to share with you I how I found this book. By happenstance, I was reading book reviews in an online newspaper and it was recommended. Why is that important? Well, I rarely look for books in the newspaper. I’m more of a science/local news/politics reader. I usually find books by recommendations from friends or typing “Books similar to [insert name of book]” into Google. In a way, it’s like the story of Verity and Maddie found me. Thank you Verity and Maddie. The cover art also grabbed my attention. Two wrists bound by rope. I know we should never judge a book by it’s cover, but I’m always curious to see how the art was inspired by the story so I just had to get the book that day.

At the beginning of the story, we are simply dropped into a scene where someone is writing something. A letter? A journal entry? At this point, it is unknown. We do know; however, that the writer believes they are a coward. Actually the first words of the story are, “I AM A COWARD.” It’s almost confusing, as if we were Dorothy and dropped into Oz after surviving the tornado. We do learn that this tornado is just beginning. As the story continues, we learn that the writer is being forced to give up wireless codes by her Nazi captors first in exchange for her clothing then for time. She has also been instructed to write down information about airfields for the Allied Forces. She does so by telling her story which includes her friend Maddie. I really cannot say much else about the plot without spoiling it for you. The author notes several times that “careless talk costs lives.” I rather like mine so I’ll let you read more about it in the blurb.

Ms. Wein integrates her knowledge of planes and flying into the story. I will admit, I found bits of it hard to follow. At times, I wanted to skip over the descriptions, but something kept nagging me to pay attention. I was developing the sense that Wein was trying to tell the reader to “pay attention because this is important.” It was. Every single word was important in this story. I don’t believe there were any portions that needed to be or could have been omitted.

As the story progresses, everything falls into place. If you were paying attention, those bits of what seems to be irrelevant stories all make sense and they all fit together. So well in fact, that I found myself telling characters to hurry at times or telling them what the reader knew, but they had not yet discovered. However, this book is in no way predictable. Wein had me in a tailspin in the second half of the book. Everything I thought I knew was clarified and then my world was rocked again. In fact, I’m a bit upset with her for keeping so much from the reader so early on.

The descriptive language used in the book as well as the accents helps the reader become completely immersed in the story. You can see the windy road, hear the bombs dropping, and smell the petrol. Wein cleverly does this while seamlessly weaving between Verity’s pre war history and her current state of being a tortured Nazi captive. Readers will be able to make this mental switch easily. In fact, it adds drama and drive to the novel.

Although the subject matter of the novel is heavy, the author gives the reader a chance to laugh and smile. Be it through the stories that Verity tells about her best friend or through dialogue between the characters. Some of my favorite quotes include:

“Have you read ‘Kim’? Are you fond of Kipling?”
“I don’t know, you naughty man, I’ve never been kippled.”

and

I say, Nazi Slave Girl, you’d look super if you’d let me have a go at your eyebrows.

What makes this book so touching is seeing the friendship grow. Unfortunately, I must admit that I was crying like a blubbering idiot after finishing the book and thinking about my best friend. I would do anything for her and I can understand the actions of the characters in the book. I miss the characters now that it’s over. At 352 pages, it doesn’t seem like I should want more from them, but I do. I want to know how everyone is doing. I want to know that they’re alright.

In the Author’s Debriefing (I love the title of that section) it is noted that some historical portions were fictionalized such as the main location of the story, Ormaie, France. So, please kiddos, don’t run off to school telling your peers about what happened there in 1943.

Please read and enjoy Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I’d really love to chat with someone about it.

* Previously posted on Literati Literature Lovers

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