Monday, March 25, 2013

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

Code Name VerityI am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending. 

Code Name Verity blew me away. Completely. Just like everyone else, I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll just go with the provided description: "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 Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other."

Code Name Verify is one of those novels to which I cannot do justice. I wasn't expecting all that much, and I ended up loving this book so much. The first 50-100 pages move really slowly, but after that, you're completely immersed in Maddie and Queenie's (Verity's) story. I just kept reading, to see what happened. The book is a bit dense, with lots of technical details, but it just goes by so fast. 

I loved the characters; Maddie and Queenie are both so great, yet so different. Queenie is basically Scottish royalty, or at the very least, Scottish aristocracy, and Maddie's grandfather is a bike shop owner. They unexpectedly become friends when Queenie is summoned to communicate in German with someone. The friendship between them was portrayed so well: "meeting your best friend is like falling in love". I liked Queenie more, I think, but the most fascinating character was Hauptsturmfürer von Linden, Queenie's capturer and torturer. He is, of course, evil, but also so complex. There are all these little things about him that are compiled, that add more to his character. Instead of just being your one-dimensional evil Nazi, he's fully fleshed out, and almost sympathetic at times, though at other times you really hate him. And obviously, he's really evil.

The style takes some getting used to. The story of Maddie and Queenie's friendship is told in the third person, kind of from Maddie's point of view, but when Queenie (a.k.a. Verity) is talking about her present situation, it's in the first person. Once you got the hang of it, it was quite effective, and quite distinctive. 

The premise of the book may have been a bit unreal; I doubt that Nazi torturers would let you ramble on and on about things that have no use whatsoever, but Linden, in this case does. When Engel, the woman who oversees Verity's writing, objects, he responds, "'Fraulein Engel,  you are not a student of literature...The English flight officer has studied the craft of the novel. She is making use of suspense and foreshadowing.'" (pg. 57). To which Verity replies, '"I am not English, you ignorant Jerry bastard, I am a SCOT." She's got spunk, all right. 

Another thing that I loved about the book is that it's a YA novel, yet there's hardly a whiff of romance. That's so rare these days, and I loved it. No need for love triangles! And it was still an amazing novel, definitely deserving as one of the New York Times best YA books of the year. Other reviewers said they cried throughout the book. I almost never do that while reading, but I felt like doing it at the end. And that's saying something. 

There's one more element that the summary doesn't mention at all. The mystery. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice to say, it is awesome. And I predicted a large element of it beforehand. Yay for me! The part that I noticed beforehand was rather obvious though. I loved everything about this book, except for the cover; it could have been better. I found a much nicer cover. Check out Maggie Stiefvater's "review" here

The ending of Code Name Verity was so good, and so sad. I would highly, highly, highly recommend this one. Just read it. Please. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites. 

Read Code Name Verity:
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like fiction set during WWII
  • if you like spy/espionage novels
  • if you like stories about friendship
332 pages. 
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!


  1. Putting it on hold at library- thanks for the book suggestion! Can't wait to read this.. From what you've written, it sounds very good.

  2. Yes! Yes, yes, yes! I love this book with an inordinate passion. Great and thoughtful review and so glad you loved it.