Code Name Verity: Book Review

There are times when you go through all the feels with a book.  You may start out confused.  The confusion may go away, but you still are not enjoying yourself at all.  You really want to stop reading, but those 4+ star reviews keep cheering you on.  Then you begin to understand.  You see the book for its true nature.  And then it’s over and you feel like you’ve read something that is both too beautiful and profound to put into words.  But because it’s kinda my job here on this page, I’m going to give it a try with  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Code Name Verity

This is the story of a friendship developed over the course of WWII in Nazi-occupied France.  A plane, piloted by Maddie, makes an emergency crash landing in a vacant field.  But not before her passenger and best friend Julie ejects herself from the plane.  Julie finds herself captured by Nazi interrogators.  Accused of being a spy, her captors torture her into giving a written account  of her life as a military field translator.

The entire first half of the book is pieced together from Julie’s transcripts that she wrote for her captors while under duress.  We get snippets of Maddie as a pilot–her training and a few of the adventures she had.  Of course, much of the story revolves around the two young women’s lives as members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Reading Julie’s rambling transcripts was maddening to me.  Upon reaching the second half of the book, I was delighted to read Maddie’s side of the story.  Yet, I couldn’t understand how both pieces of this story would fit together to form such a highly rated young adult novel.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is a young adult novel.  It’s one that I could see as assigned reading in a high school history class.  It’s also one that I probably would not have forced myself to finish in high school.  As an adult, however, I’m so glad I chose to finish it.

Code Name Verity is a piece of historical fiction that emphasizes the often untold role that women played in WWII.  It is a complex novel that The New York Times declared, “A fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel, the kind you have to read twice.”  I would agree with this description.  It is a complex plot, especially given that it is geared toward the YA crowd.  Yet, teens and adults alike will treasure the friendship between Julie and Maddie.  It is a tale of spies, mystery, and suspense.  However, it’s overall greater theme is of friendship and the often heartbreaking choices that these women are forced to make to protect each other.  It’s a story of love and vindication.   It’s a triumph of humanity amidst great tragedy.  It’s a beautiful and profound story of two friends unlike any that I have ever read.

More historical fiction for young adults


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