Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Young-Adult, Historical
Publication: May 15th 2012 by Hyperion Books for Children
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.
Before I can even begin, this book is absolutely heartbreakingly stunning! It has to be one of the best historical fictions I have ever read and for an addition to the young-adult genre, Elizabeth Wein should be incredibly proud of such an amazing book. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so blown away by such a unique book.
Historical fiction set in the war is something I generally have a love/hate relationship with because however much I adore reading historical fiction, I ultimately ball my eyes out at ever war time piece I read. This book was no different, I was in tears, but Wein crafted the tale in such a manner that I couldn’t resent her for her choice in plot or ending and it had to fit, rather like Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful, another stunning war-time, young-adult novel. She certainly stepped up the bar for historical fiction at a young adult novel to be truly emotional and raw whilst reflecting the camaraderie and spirit of the people during the war.
This book is certainly unique because it’s split into two sections to follow the two protagonists, which is complicated to understand at first and there are lots of character names for both the two female leads, but as the story develops these names slot into position, and the story begins to unravel. Thus, we see the story through a new set of eyes. Whilst the story is told in first person, we also reflect into third which might seem odd, but it works incredibly well for this novel. The grit and emotional aspects of this novel are really provided by the switching perspective to witness the turmoil of the characters and it really made my heart clench.
We start the tale being thrown straight into the events where Verity has been captured by the enemy and everything begins to unveil across the tale. It certainly adds to the drama and the effect Wein is trying to emphasise how war really discombobulates the individual.
Wein doesn’t forget the historical context at all and we talk about the planes, the rationing, bombing, air raids, German military units, the Gestapo and even torture. Wein isn’t afraid to get into the grit and horror of the war which I can really appreciate because when such events as World War 2 are fresh in the minds of the older generation, it means this story isn’t so long ago unrealistic and ultimately that’s what makes war fiction more touching for me.
The characters… What can I say? I don’t think I’ve ever seen two such defined, realistic, deceptive and ultimately kind, caring and loyally devoted friends that we witness in Maddie and Verity. My heart is literally breaking apart at the heart wrenching trips these two go through. Wein makes two very beautiful characters and never once did I find myself disbelieving of them or anything they did. I fell in love with their friendship, the characters and ultimately the story they told between them. The two characters touched me and I think it will be hard to leave them behind, particularly Verity who we follow through particular hardship and see very differently throughout the whole book.
The friendship between the two is the defining part of the story for me because despite their wonderful strong personalities and everything that entails, this book revolves around friendship. Something I think that becomes important in the world of war. However if I say much more I will be giving away the tale of the story.
I’m finding it hard to define their characters because we build up a character profile of them throughout the whole story and it is not until the end everything falls into place because Wein is constantly keeping us on the edge of our seats, pushing us to read on.
Whilst we don’t meet many strong secondary characters, this doesn’t take away from the strength of the story because we have two fantastic leads. It would be hard for Wein to create the truly strong second characters when the surroundings are changing and always being deceptive. However she certainly makes a brilliant effort and one of the characters I found I didn’t like was entirely deceiving by the end and I really appreciated Wein’s method of changing the perception of people.
A secondary character I did fall in love with was Jamie. This book isn’t particularly a romance at all, but he was a dashing male who was a gentleman and I found my heart just tugged every time he appeared. He never once failed to do the right thing and by the end of the story, despite him not being their much, I found myself in love with him. He’d been through hardship and trouble and the two main characters were there for him, and then by the end he was there for them and I loved it all really.
Wein has a talent at always changing the story pace and direction and I found myself befuddled and confused and then straightened again. This wasn’t a bad thing at all because I felt like Wein was testing out resilience and faith in the characters, like they themselves faced. It was certainly a thrilling read because nothing was ever what I expected and I loved how she interlinked the first half of the novel with the second to make everything ‘fit’ nice and neatly. I really adored that aspect of the novel.
Admittedly I found the story easy to read, but it took me around 100 pages to really get into and then about 130 pages in I devoured the book in a sitting. This book for me is one where you have to be in a mood to read and wouldn’t read if I was looking to be cheered up. Having said that, it’s a fantastic book that you shouldn’t pass up on. Even if young-adult books aren’t usually your genre, I’d really advise checking this one out, because it’s like nothing I’ve read before!
I can’t say I could find a true fault with this book, but it made me cry and I could probably gush for hours, so just go buy it now and a box of tissues too!
*This e-book was provided to be via NetGalley for review*
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