It takes me a while to catch up with most of the trends, including popular books. While I’d love to have the money and time to purchase and read many books as soon as they are released, I usually wait for them to arrive at the library and check them out when I feel I have the time in my schedule to finish them before the due date. So while this book was the Big Thing quite a while ago, I only just finished reading my library copy.
Book: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
More info: Amazon listing here*
Plot Overview: I don’t want to include any spoilers here, so I can’t give a detailed summary. The story is set in World War II and centers around two women who are part of the British Resistance. The book begins with their plane crash-landing in Nazi-occupied France, and “Verity” being captured. She is convicted of being a spy and given a choice between confession or torture and execution. She chooses confession, and tells of her friendship with Maddie (the pilot of the plane) and their work for the resistance.
Pros: Code Name Verity is a well-written and engrossing story. I had a hard time putting the book down, and sped through the last third in one marathon session. I read quite a bit of historical fiction and most of the WWII stories I’ve read before center on American characters with American perspective. Reading a story about the British Resistance was a nice change and the Author’s Notes and Bibliography were great additions. Maddie and Verity are unique and well-developed, and I loved how their friendship is portrayed. There is a great diversity in the secondary characters as well, and I felt only a couple of them were “stock” characters. Many WWII books portray all the Allies as completely moral and upright, and the Nazis as purely evil. This story did a good job of including flawed heroes and a villain with the chance for redemption. There is a fairly surprising and exciting plot twist that really drives the story toward the end. The book is clearly well-researched and I enjoyed learning about British aircraft and spy-craft. Though the subject matter is obviously very dark and depressing, I still felt the overarching themes of love and hope very clearly. It’s an emotional story and I cried my way through the ending, which is a rare thing for me.
Cons: The story hinges on one plot point that is rather far into “creative license” territory. In fact, the author acknowledges this in her post-script note and explains why she chose to write the story that way. Those who prefer their historical fiction to stay close to historical fact may not enjoy the book as much. I personally enjoy historical fiction even when it is far to the “fictional” side, so I didn’t find the plot problematic, especially once I read the author’s note.
I honestly don’t understand why this book is marketed as a Young Adult fiction. While the characters are young women, the story contains some very mature themes even aside from the obvious WWII setting. The book includes stark discussions of death, torture, deception, suicide, and loss. There is a fair amount of adult language, and while I feel it was used judiciously, it does make the book feel oppressive at times. It’s an exceptional story, but I personally would not label it “young adult fiction.” Some younger teens may enjoy it, but I know it would have been too much for me when I was 13. I think it would be an excellent book for parents and teens to read together as the story provides many mature topics worthy of discussion.
Summary: I highly recommend Code Name Verity to anyone mature enough to handle the variety of adult themes. The setting is dark and tragic, but the loving friendship of the girls is such a beautiful contrast, and it left me feeling hope rather than depression. The book was outstanding, rising far above the many mediocre offerings that populate the historical fiction genre.