Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Published on May 15, 2012
Summary from Goodreads:
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?
Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.
This book. This book! I'm struggling to express how I feel about this book without a) spoiling all the best bits and b) devolving into gibberish. There are surprises and twists and shocking revelations and I'm not too proud to admit that I did a little bit of weeping at the end, with my Kindle one hand and my cat staring at me like I'd lost my mind. And then as soon as I finished, I went back to the beginning to start all over again. (A lot of books say this in their promo copy. You'll want to read it all over again! It's usually not true -- not for me, at least -- but in this case, it really was the first thing I did.) Let's put it this way: I liked this book so much that I fully intend on going out and buying an actual paper copy, now that the book's been released.
Code Name Verity is written largely from the point of view of Verity (not her real name, naturally) herself as she writes her story out for her Nazi captors. Becoming a collaborator is humiliating for her, and the other prisoners hate her for agreeing to give over information, but she does it anyway to buy time and perhaps a bit of dignity. She's supposed to be giving away British secrets -- radio frequencies, encrypted codes, locations of secret airfields -- but instead weaves the information in the form of a story, one which starts with pilot and best friend Maddie Brodatt's burgeoning interest in flight and ends with the disastrous turn of events which lead up to Verity's capture. To talk much about the second half of the book, however, is to give away information that is best kept a surprise.
The characters all felt very real and well-developed to me. Even the secondary characters, from the woman pilot who inspires Maddie to the various other soldiers and civilians encountered, are given enough personality to make them well-rounded and memorable. Verity and Maddie are easy characters to fall in love with, and the story definitely makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens to them. The author also did a ton of research to make the story and the events as realistic as possible. Verity's storytelling -- both of past exploits and current events with her Nazi captors -- is written in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of way, which could be jarring at first, but it grew on me very quickly. The story is very adept at being heartbreaking one moment and laugh-out-loud funny the next.
There were a few plot points that I found predictable and guessed beforehand, but most of the events really managed to take me by surprise. At times, the book can get bogged down a bit too much in details about flight, types of planes, etc., but this wasn't a negative to me. First, it makes sense that the details are in there as Verity's writings are supposed to contain the information that she has agreed to give the Nazis. Second, all of these details are easy to skip over without losing any of the gist of the story line. Also, a note on the cover, as many of you are cover fiends: I do not like this cover at all. I thought that the original cover was much classier looking. I'm not totally sure what two hands bound together have to do with the book, other than being symbolic of Maddie and Verity's friendship.
I would recommend this book for older teens and up. Although it falls under the category of YA fiction, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to adult readers, either. Beware that although it is a YA book, it doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of war. As the story is being told from the perspective of a young woman being harshly interrogated and tortured by Nazi captors, there are some descriptions of the actions taken against her, and there are several deaths/executions on the page. Nothing is depicted in gratuitous detail, but sensitive readers may want to be cautious.