Book Review – “Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)” by Elizabeth Wein
Book: Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, WWII, Friendship, Adventure, Mystery (?)
Description 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, 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.”
Another book read as part of the IGGPPC Book Worms Monthly challenge – the book for March followed the theme of strong female characters; several of us submitted suggestions for a book, and after votes were tallied, “Code Name Verity” won. I voted for this rather than the book I actually suggested, only because I was one of the last to vote, and there was a tie between this and another book…and this subject matter is much more interesting to me. Selfish? Sure, why not.
As the description states, this book is set during WWII and centered around the friendship of Maddie and Verity, and their misadventures as it turns out. Up front, I feel it is very important that people realize this is a work of fiction – while it is based on WWII, the events that occur are not actual events of the war. The author fully admits this in the back of the book, but I think I would have felt differently going into this had I known that. Also, do not Google this book or you will get spoilers upon blooming spoilers…and that just ain’t right.
Anywho…the book is divided into two sections, which I didn’t realize (one of the down sides to eBooks is the inability to thumb through the pages before you purchase, reading bits of paragraphs to see if the writing draws you in…that’s perhaps a blog post for another time). If I had known this as well, I may have been more forgiving of the first half of the book. It felt weird how flippant she was being in relating her story to the Gestapo; the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was her own defense mechanism… Another point worth mentioning, I think, is there are mild depictions of what the prisoners had to endure – interrogation, descriptions of abuse, implied unwanted sexual advances, and once scene of an execution. There is also some violence – a plane crash, and a scene involving prisoners and German soldiers being shot. If you are sensitive to these things, proceed with the book cautiously.
The first half of the book I had a hard time getting into. As I mentioned, it seemed weird how nonchalant she was being with recounting her memories of what happened and how she came to be imprisoned by the Gestapo. You can’t believe she’s being so open and actually telling them information – you feel a little angry with her that she’s being a coward or giving in too easily…but then! You realize who she is and what her role was, and it suddenly all makes sense! The last half of the book is my favorite thought – that’s when things all come together and the whole story really fills out.
Again, bearing in mind this is a work of fiction, none of the events are true in the sense that the lives of Maddie and Verity are based on real people…but the author did do her homework in making sure that certain things were at least plausible during the war. Yes, even down to that ink pen Maddie was using.
Overall, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It was a change of pace from my fantasy/sci-fi/steampunk reads, and I always love reading about WWII. The female leads are relatable and you grow to like them; they are also strong and resilient, which is a refreshing change.