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Code Name Verity [Hardcover]

Elizabeth E. Wein
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15 2012
Code Name Verity is a compelling, emotionally rich story with universal themes of friendship and loyalty, heroism and bravery.
 
Two young women from totally different backgrounds are thrown together during World War II: one a working-class girl from Manchester, the other a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a wireless operator. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly and before long become devoted friends. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in "Verity's" own words, as she writes her account for her captors.

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Review

Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal

“This heart-in-your-mouth adventure has it all: a complex plot, a vivid sense of place and time, and resonant themes of friendship and courage. Practical Maddie and mischievous Julie are brought to life through their vibrant narrative voices and intriguing backstories . . . In this powerful work of historical fiction, Julie and Maddie need never fear ‘flying alone’; the reader will soar with them until the final page.”
The Washington Post
 
“Young people will enjoy this Second World War spy story, no doubt, but its appeal is much wider. It's a beautiful thriller about friendship, courage and daring at a desperate time.”
The StarPhoenix
 
“Moving back in time, rather than forward, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is an original, cleverly written Second World War story about spies, torture, women pilots, friendship and the horror of war.”
The Independent

“A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“[Code Name Verity] is outstanding in all its features—its warm, ebullient characterization; its engagement with historical facts; its ingenious plot and dramatic suspense; and its intelligent, vivid writing.”
The Horn Book (starred review)

“A fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel.”
The New York Times Book Review

“If you pick up this book, it will be some time before you put your dog-eared, tear-stained copy back down. Wein succeeds on three fronts: historical verisimilitude, gut-wrenching mystery, and a first-person voice of such confidence and flair that the protagonist might become a classic character. . . . Both crushingly sad and hugely inspirational, this plausible, unsentimental novel will thoroughly move even the most cynical of readers.”
Booklist Online (American Library Association)

“This book is written in a brilliant way. . . . Elizabeth Wein makes it always be believable and realistic as it is from the point of view of a young woman. . . . By the end, I was sobbing. . . . I would rate it a 10/10, for being so amazing and intriguing. . . . I think everyone should read this incredible and heart wrenching story of two girls.”
The Guardian (UK)

“Everyone should read this book. Everyone, everyone, everyone. . . . It will, in certain moments, emotionally destroy you, put you back together again, and leave you slightly unable to function as a person after you’ve finished it. But in a good way. In the sort of way where you’re really glad you read it, and want everyone you know to read it as well. . . . It is unlike anything I have ever read, full of pain and bravery and friendship. . . . Run to the bookstore right now.”
Feminist Fiction

 “This book enthralled me from the opening words. . . . What a fabulous book. Made up of equal parts Nancy Drew, Girl Scout and Steve McQueen, these girls show just how much they took on, and how much they were capable of doing, during the war while the men were away. . . . The layers run deep. . . . Suffice it to say that if you are a fan of intrigue, war and strong females. . . you will not be disappointed.”
Ink and Page

About the Author

ELIZABETH WEIN was born in New York, and grew up in England, Jamaica and Pennsylvania. She has her pilot's license, and it is her love of flying that partly inspired the idea for Code Name Verity.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review from Esther's Ever After June 13 2012
By Brenna TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I have to admit that I struggled with Code Name Verity at first; it was a slow read for me, one that I found difficult to get into but one that with an ending so powerful and unforgettable that it redeemed itself and made my experience completely turnaround!

Although this story is set in World War II, it's really a story about two girls who become best friends and what was most likely the period in their life that had the great impact on them. It's also written in journal format, which is something I've mentioned before that I never seem to take to well as a reader. But the story itself is a beautiful tale that leaves a mark on your heart.

Reasons to Read:

1.Lively, endearing characters:

Maddie and Queenie are two of the most incredible characters I have ever read about; their personalities literally jump off the pages, and they're just fantastic young women to read about. They're so realistic and familiar, that it's hard to believe that they're no more than fiction. Queenie, especially, was one character that I found totally endearing and striking. The choices she makes, the stories she tells... she's one character you WON'T forget soon. And Maddie is equally brave, in her own unique-Maddie way. Gah, I love these two so much!

2.An ending that'll make you go "WHAT?!":

Yeah, it' sone of THOSE endings. I mean, you kind of figure that you know what to expect... but it's still so heartbreaking and momentous and just THERE, and you really don't want it to happen. Yet, it's shocking all on its own. It's a good thing though, I mean, I loved it even though it made me tear up a bit too. It's a good book with feeling is what I'm trying to say, I suppose.

3.An interesing perspective of WW2:

And that ending?
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5.0 out of 5 stars a new MUST READ Aug. 27 2013
By Lynne Frappier TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Oh my goodness.
This book has it all ... intrigue, guts, glory, pain, love, friendship, heartache, Nazi spies, British spies, fighter pilots. I loved both Julie aka Queenie aka Verity and Maggie aka Kittyhawk. The book is divided in two parts - Verity's version and then Kittyhawk's version. I cried at the end ... while Maggie was crying so was I. I can't believe that these two characters could get under my skin so quickly, but they did. This was a great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  404 reviews
118 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most powerful books I've read May 17 2012
By Gretchen @ My Life is a Notebook - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This review is of an ARC received from NetGalley.

There are few books that leave me speechless.

This would be one of them.

I'll admit, I had my reservations in the beginning. The narrator RAMBLES like whoa. I mean, I was reading on a screen and I saw pages taken up by just two paragraphs and I thought "Swell, this is just going and going and I'm going to be bored to tears."

I wasn't. Not by a long shot.

Usually, if the narrator rambles, I get bored and lose interest. Not here. Sometimes I feel like narrators in YA lack a distinct voice, but-again-not here. Verity HAS VOICE. Verity HAS PRESENCE. Despite the fact that she tells her story from Maddie's point of view, talking about herself in the first person, I felt like I was seeing into Verity's soul. There was no doubt in my mind about the voice that was just flying off the pages, talking to my heart. She not only managed to win me over despite rambling, but also despite talking about herself in the third person, which is huge. (The third person thing makes sense later, but I can't say anything about that!)

Plus, I was expecting a pretty dark, dramatic book. It is both of those things, but imagine my surprise when I found myself laughing out loud multiple times while I was reading. While Verity is being held by the Gestapo. I was laughing. That's how spectacular Verity is. That's how strong she is. That's what this book is like.

I'd also like to give a brief shout out on a very touchy subject. Not only is Verity a rounded person, but the German Officer who interrogates her is also a rounded character. He isn't this mindless drone, which I found very refreshing and made the book even more real. It would have been so, so easy to stereotype this guy, but Wein didn't. She MADE IT REAL.

You have no idea how hard it is not to comment on the second half of the book. I literally don't know how to write about that. I'll admit, personally here I found the voice weaker and several things too rushed, but at the same time I can't imagine certain events having differently, not if they still wanted to be real. The ending is very bittersweet, so I suppose my mixed feelings are supposed to be there.

And trust me, all of my feelings are there.

I could get technical. I could. I could talk for ages about the rambling, the technicalities, and the story tangents that don't make sense til the second half of the book. With any other book, I would. But with this one, I just can't. Code Name Verity was just one of those books.

A good book is fun to read. A good book takes you to a new place for a time, but then you put it down and you go on with your life. Code Name Verity was not a good book.

Code Name Verity was a great book.

It was the kind of book with images, words and ideas that get under your skin. The kind of story that melts into your heart. It was an experience that is with you long after you've closed the book. THAT is the kind of story that comes with Code Name Verity.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great war books Aug. 24 2012
By Heidi Waterhouse - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Oh. My.

When you read enough reviews that refuse to talk about the plot, you know there is a twist coming, but the twist ended up being other than what I expected, so thank you previous reviewers.

The VOICE in this book! The voiceS. I was riveted all through the book by how vivid and rich the conversations were. There are 24 highlights in this book, which is about double my usual rate, because I couldn't let phrases like
"You ignorant Quisling bastard, SS-Scharführer Etienne Thibaut, I AM SCOTTISH."
and
"Oh my sainted aunt! unlimited visibility! unlimited visibility except for the dirty great city in the northwest! That would be the dirty great city surrounded at 3000 feet by a few hundred silver hydrogen balloons as big as buses! How in the name of mud is he going to find Berlin if he can't find Manchester?"

Anyway, it's a war book. It's like many other war books for young readers, about the inhumanity of war and the humanity of the individuals writing it, and how jarring it is to try to understand all that together. I would unhesitatingly give this book to a middle-schooler. There is violence, but it is mostly by reference, and there is fear, the book is thick with it, but each of the main characters makes a list of things she is afraid of, and both of them include Failing Other People. I love books that are about being equally scared of dying and failing.

Fascinatingly, this is an entirely aromantic book. It's like everyone is so busy staying alive/fighting Nazis that they have all the mate-finding and sexual pursuit burned out of them. Except for one creepy handsy character, which I thought was a fascinating and unnecessary inclusion, but it models how to handle someone sexually pushy without becoming completely unhistorical. It makes the book more complicated and richer.
<cite>I suppose all he wanted was a kiss and a cuddle. He backed off looking deeply injured and left me feeling guilty and dirty and prudish all at once.<cite> Yes! That's what it feels like. And we should be saying so.

Read if: You have previously liked Elizabeth Wein books, you read /Escape from Colditz/ obsessively as a child, you wish you were clever and brave. You love stories about unlikely friends who push each other to be better. You like books with extensive bibliographies and references to English literature. (yes, this book was obviously written exactly for me. My point is that it may be exactly for you, too.)

Skip if: historically-accurate references to torture, execution, and the general misery of occupied France are going to be a problem for you.

Also read: Escape from Colditz;: The two classic escape stories: The Colditz story, and Men of Colditz. Rifles for Watie.

Final note: This book is way too absorbing to put down easily. It's not long, but allocate some undisturbed time for it.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked but not loved. SPOILERS! Nov. 19 2012
By E. Smiley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is one of those books that's almost impossible to talk about without revealing plot elements, and that's most enjoyable to discover as you go. So, if you think you'd like a young-adult novel starring two women--one a pilot, one an intelligence officer--in WWII, and you don't like spoilers, you should probably avoid all reviews (mine included) and just read it.

Now for the review.

Overall, Code Name Verity is an enjoyable book. The story is gripping, with tension and danger throughout--naturally enough, as one of the protagonists spends the book as a Nazi prisoner. The characters are fairly vivid, and I enjoyed reading about a pair of tough, capable women. I was unaware of the role of women pilots in England's Air Transport Auxiliary during the war, and so especially enjoyed reading about Maddie's advancement as a pilot. The author, a pilot herself, does a great job of communicating her love of flight, and her clear knowledge of planes adds verisimilitude. Wartime England and occupied France are both brought to life, and the writing style is adequate without drawing attention to itself.

Two criticisms then. First, I liked the idea of the main characters' friendship better than its depiction; they seem to leap right from getting acquainted to undying sisterhood, with readers missing a step somewhere along the way.

Second, there are the myriad problems with the epistolary format. The first 2/3 or so of the book is supposed to be written by Julie, the captured intelligence officer, as a "confession" for her captors. Unreliable narrators are fun and this keeps the reader guessing. But for the premise to work, we must believe 1) that the Nazi captain is such a lover of literature that he doesn't mind that his prisoner's "confession" is actually a novel-length narrative weaving together her own day-to-day life as a prisoner and her best friend's wartime experiences, with little to no "useful" information and 2) that despite that, he's too dense to realize she's not telling the truth--even though the third sentence of her account is "I have always been good at pretending," even though she paints herself as a gutsy con artist throughout and admits to making up details. That's a lot to swallow. I'd figured out much of what Julie was hiding halfway through her narrative--for instance, that she liked the translator much more than she let on--and had a hard time believing someone whose job is getting the truth out of prisoners wouldn't have figured her out too. Dropping so many hints also makes Julie look less smart than she's meant to be.

Maddie narrates the last third, and the premise here doesn't make much sense either--she writes most of it in hiding in France, where if found her writing would endanger not only herself but the family sheltering her. Seems an unlikely time for someone who's never kept a journal to start. The two characters' voices sound alike, and the voice doesn't quite fit either of them: too refined for Maddie the working-class mechanic, not refined enough for the ultra-privileged Julie, and too young for either. In both cases their styles are also too novelistic to be plausible--complete with dialogue, scenes, etc. I can grudgingly accept one character writing her journal as if it were a novel, but two?

There are some plot details, too, that don't quite add up--one wonders, for instance, why the Allies would choose to put so many resources into bombing an unoccupied building used by the Nazis, who can presumably just requisition another. But, in the end, Code Name Verity is a competent book that I would have enjoyed much more at age 14 than I did as an adult. It's very young-adult in everything from pacing to plot elements to the characters' voices, and I wonder why Wein chose that route, since the protagonists are women in their 20s whose stories would suit an adult book as well. (Despite that, they're rather jarringly referred to as "girls" throughout, perhaps to make them seem closer to the target readers' ages.) But I don't hold my not being in the intended audience against it.

So, do I recommend the book? Maybe. Despite the glowing reviews, I found nothing mindblowing about it. But I did like it, and if you typically enjoy YA and are willing to engage in a lot of suspension of disbelief, chances are you will have a great time with it.
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Different in a Very Good Way May 14 2012
By Valerie A. Baute - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Free ARC provided by NetGalley

Best friends Maddie and... (I don't even know what to call her because I don't want to ruin anything!) crash-land in occupied France. One becomes a prisoner, tortured for information. What about the other girl? I am so set on not ruining ANYTHING about this book that I'm not going to say anything else about the plot except that there are two parts to the story. That was about all I knew going into it, and it was enough to make me want to read it.

This book is a wonderful historical fiction about WWII told from a different perspective. There are lots of Holocaust books. There are books about soldiers fighting the war. There are books about almost every aspect of the war. Very rarely do you read about women during the war, and almost never about young women actually fighting in the war! Fighting! Not being nurses, not working at home, not struggling to survive while their towns are being blown up. Actually flying into the middle of it! Add to that the prisoner of war aspect and wow!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I had to know what was going to happen! It definitely drew me in and kept me there. When I got past the first part of the book, I didn't think I would care for the second part, and was quick to say that I was only going to be giving the book 4 stars. Before long, I was hooked again. The author did a good job of surprising me and of bringing so many things together. I enjoyed reading the first part probably more than the second, but I brought so much more out of the second than the first. For some people who may think that the beginning story drags on... keep reading. I didn't feel it dragged on at all, but that was because I found most of the information so educational. There was quite a bit about certain types of planes that I just kind of skimmed over because it didn't particularly interest me, but she thankfully didn't go into too much detail about it. For anyone who thinks the beginning story isn't very interesting, they will be rewarded with all of the crazy twists of the second part.

Even after I finished the book, I at first thought I would only rank it 4 stars. There was only so much action and a lot of story, something I don't usually enjoy. I decided to sit on it for a couple of days. Then I couldn't get the book out of my mind. I kept thinking of ways that the author made the story realistic, different, enthralling. When I went to talk about it with other people, so much information sat on the edge of my tongue waiting to be spilled out. I had to keep my mouth shut just in case any of those people decide to read it, because it wouldn't be the same if you had any real idea what was going to happen. In the end, it left such an impact that it definitely earned the 5 star ranking.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, thought-provoking read Sept. 18 2012
By studiousstudent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Every time von Linden, the Gestapo interrogator, appears in a scene, I'm annoyed. Annoyed because I don't buy the premise that he's letting his prisoner write a novel to disclose her war secrets. But more annoyed that I care so much about the prisoner and her friends that I simply cannot put the book down. In Elizabeth Wein's novel of historical fiction, Code Name Verity, the plot materializes as a tightly bound mosaic, and it is this weaving that keeps readers glued to this otherwise questionable premise. The plot begins with two women serving in World War II, one of whom, Verity, a Resistance spy, is captured and held at a Gestapo headquarters in Ormaie, France after her plane crashes (piloted by her best friend Maddie) into enemy territory. The ensuing action occurs off the page as we read Verity's daily notes and stories from the past which she passes on to the Gestapo in exchange for a few more days of life (and torture).

Much of the book centers on the history of Verity's relationship with Maddie, her pilot friend, and how their unlikely friendship blossomed around depressing military hangars. Historical novel enthusiasts will enjoy Wein's flight knowledge and meticulous description of period aircraft (which truly authenticates the historical portion of the novel). Additionally, her subtle but constant blackouts continually remind readers of the realities of living in war-time Britain. Wein's sense of place also helps to lighten the darkness of the novel, and her descriptions recount the beauty of England from the air: "with all the Cheshire plain and its green fields and red chimneys thrown at her feet like a tartan picnic blanket" (8).

Wein's strongest literary tactic is her character development. While I question the believability of the "creative writing" prisoner, the creation of a novelist/diarist character brings an extra authenticity to the novel. We are able to get inside their heads, and we understand how they are vulnerable, wreckless, desperate, yet incredibly strong. When Verity despairs, "You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do" (5), we will her to go on. A minor complaint for Wein's characters, is that they lack period diction. Several times Wein necessarily whips out Verity's authentic Scottish brogue, but the phrasing and rhythm of 1940s British English fails to appear.

What Wein sacrifices with speech and a questionable plot premise, she regains through her characters' circumstances. While I faltered at the brink of the "suspension of disbelief," I never forgot that it was a novel about war. Loss is real, and she never subdues the violence. The plausibility of the novel is found in the moral dilemmas with which prisoners are faced and the ensuing discomfort we feel as these moral dilemmas are placed, quite accurately, in the context of World War II. The mind games she plays with us are almost as intriguing as the cunning characters themselves.

Wein's novel, then, accurately depicts the emotional turmoil and ethical dilemmas of military personnel and prisoners of war, and she weaves a narrative of gender roles, ethnicity, fear, and truth into an exciting and harrowing novel, one necessarily touched with pain and loss. While she fails to produce accurate diction and a flawless plot premise, her characters and circumstances are so real that ignoring them would seem as inhumane as the character of the Gestapo interrogator, SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden.
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