April 27, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Code Name Verity [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Elizabeth Wein [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Published: May 15th, 2012 by Hyperion Books for Children (first published in the UK February 6th, 2012 by Egmont Press)
Format: Kindle edition; 327 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
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.
I don’t know how to write this review. It seems to be a lot like Fight Club. The first rule of Code Name Verity is you don’t talk about Code Name Verity. But I shall try.
My feelings toward Code Name Verity are somewhat of a Catch 22. I would have never heard of this book if I hadn’t seen some amazing reviews, but if I hadn’t read such amazing reviews, I would have approached with an even greater air of mystery and no expectations. It’s not that I didn’t greatly enjoy Code Name Verity, I did very much and I so hope you read it, it’s that I didn’t fall in love quite as I expected to. I fell in love a whole other way. When everyone tells you as you start a book to store up on tissues, it kind of make you feel like you missed something when you only tear up briefly in two parts, and shed nary a tear. I just want to get that confession out of the way. I found Code Name Verity to be incredibly beautiful and powerful, and yet I feel like it affected me differently than I expected. I expected tragedy, and yet what I found was daring and hopeful, a fierce friendship to adore. I just couldn’t find myself distraught over Code Name Verity, because to me it was too inspiring and steadfast to blubber. In no way am I saying those who have been wrecks upon finishing this book are in any way weak or wrong, I just had a different reaction. I was pretty happy, and that was why I teared up.
I first heard of Code Name Verity shortly after devouring Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. I loved that duology very much, and was positively salivating for more historical fiction set in WWII, but not the mainland Europe WWII, WWII as it was experienced in Great Britain. Needless to say, I pounced on the opportunity to read this book. And, despite physically taking place in France, Verity’s confessions of operations in Great Britain were exactly what I was looking for.
I think I’ve grasped on to WWII Great Britain, because for me it is a fear I can understand. Growing up, we are taught about the horrors of the Holocaust, given amazing books like Number the Stars and The Diary of Anne Frank that are so heartbreaking and frightening, it’s quite frankly beyond my mental capacity to feel like I can truly understand the terror. It’s just too terrible. I know it happened, and I feel so strongly about it, and yet, I know I can never really understand. Reading about the war effort in Great Britain, however, is something I can wrap my head around. I’m not saying I can fully grasp it in the sense that I’ve ever experienced anything even approaching the blackouts, the Blitz, or attempting to navigate with no street signs, but it’s certainly an easier circumstance to picture yourself in. It kind of makes you think that most American’s sense of danger during the war effort was laughable in comparison to Great Britain in the same way that most of Great Britain’s sense of danger was laughable in comparison to those living in mainland Europe. This reality was emphasized through the events of Code Name Verity, and I appreciate so much that this book was able to help me understand the stepping stones of fear that existed in WWII.
But then, the reality is, Code Name Verity isn’t really about WWII. It’s about women who do what they love and what they are good at, not for the war effort, but because they can and they want to. It’s about friendship, comradery, and true bravery. Not the kind of bravery where you think ‘I’m going to do this because it’s the right thing do do’ or ‘it will save so many people’ or ‘I will sacrifice myself’, but the kind of bravery where you don’t even think because in your mind there is no other option.
I came to feel so strongly for both Maddie and Verity through Verity’s writings. There’s nothing quite like an indignant Scot (do not call one English…I get the same way when people say I’m from the Mid-West), and a girl who loves flying so much that she will risk her life to do it often. The equation drawn between love and friendship is beautiful and real in a way that makes Code Name Verity one of the most powerful stories of friendship I have ever read. The entire book you are questioning Verity’s story, wondering how much is real, but you never question her relationship with Maddie.
Code Name Verity was a magnificently written story that managed to exceed my expectations, while simultaneously not meeting them whatsoever. It wasn’t quite the story I expected, but I think for that I loved it more.
I have told the truth.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Obvs I really want to read the Lion Hunters series since there’ve been quite a few comparisons drawn between the main character and Eugenides of The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.
Anyone and everyone who enjoys epistolary novels, historical fiction, or unreliable narrators. Particularly those who enjoy stories of friendship, true bravery, and Peter Pan.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Before you read this book, I challenge you to make a list of your 10 greatest fears. Then, once you have read it, do it again and see—what 10 things are you afraid of now?