Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Published: February 2012
Pages: 452 (paperback)
Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Publisher for review
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Code Name Verity is a book that immediately screamed READ ME the first time I saw it. Apart from being historical fiction set during World War II, the lead characters are female - which is not exactly rare but there's usually one female and one male character (rinse and repeat). Coupled with the fact that it's YA, which doesn't have THAT much historical fiction in comparison to other genres, I was really excited about it. But I won't lie - although I hadn't read any in-depth reviews, I'd seen how other readers had rated it - and the reviews were pretty much extreme love or extreme boredom.
The story begins at the end. Kind of. And because of that, I didn't find it the easiest read, nor a particularly flowing narrative. At times I actually felt like I was reading but not progressing at the rate I would have expected, not because it's a bad book, but because I found it pretty complex to get into.
As mentioned earlier, one of the things that appealed to me the most about Code Name Verity was the female characters - but what I didn't expect is the strength of their friendship and their bravery. It's something that I didn't really appreciate until about 25% of the way through, and it only continued to consolidate itself the further I read.
The characters and their interactions were the highlight of Code Name Verity for me - although the setting was intriguing, and the storyline pretty jaw-dropping, the characters felt very real to me - and at times I completely forgot that they were fictional characters in a fictional situation.
There is a lot of airplane-speak and although I found it infinitely fascinating and Wein does a pretty fair job of making it easy to understand, I can see that it might be off putting for readers who are just not interested in it because it's a pretty heavy theme throughout the story.
I won't go any further into the plot because I'd be throwing spoilers around everywhere, but although I found it slow-going in some places, the action definitely picked up in the last third or so, and by the end I was completely emotionally invested in the story.
Code Name Verity is intense historical fiction that at times feels a little more heavy than I expected it to be, but the characters more than made up for any stagnation in the plot and they kept me reading because I was so invested in finding out what happened in the end.
If you enjoy historical fiction with strong characters, I can definitely recommend Code Name Verity. And if you start reading and feel a little lost, or get a little stuck, my advice would be to push on - the characters were really worth investing in.