Code Name Verity (Paperback) By (author) Elizabeth Wein Paperback – 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
It's heart wenching and beautiful and I recommend it just on the fact it will pull on your heart strings.
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?Read more ›
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.
This is a well crafted story, first told from the point of view of Verity and then later from that of Maddie. Unfortunately, this story didn't capture my interest nor imagination. Code Name Verity is part of author Elizabeth Weir's Young Pilot Series. For those with an interest in flying, they will find this book very attractive. There is a wealth of knowledge about WWII era planes and their role in the war effort.
If I had been reading a paper version, I doubt I'd have made it past the first few chapters. I listened to the audio from Bolinda Audio. It was a free download from SYNC, a summer audio book program aimed at YA readers. The program continues this summer with 28 additional titles. Readers for this book are Marven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. They did a excellent job and kept my attention with their voice characterisation of the men and women as well as the French and German accents.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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."
"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.
So, as you might already know, CODE NAME VERITY is the story of two young British girls during WWII who become involved with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, one as a spy and the other as a pilot. One of the girls, Verity, does more of the spy thing and Maddie more of the flying thing. They develop a close friendship over the course of some time, so that when Verity and Maddie's plane crashes over France and Verity is taken prisoner, Maddie is distraught and eager to find her friend once she realizes what has happened to her. Meanwhile, Verity is in a Gestapo-run prison trying to barter for her life with secrets about British planes and airfields and any other juicy tidbits she might know. As the story comes to its conclusion, a THING of TREMENDOUS, EPIC THINGYNESS happens and Elizabeth Wein`s story fairly barrels to its conclusion. (Thankfully.)
I know that this all probably sounds great to you. And I suppose in some ways it is. We get great glimpses into the historical role of women in the war effort, and a story of friendship. But CODE NAME VERITY is split into two parts-the first is made up of Verity's "reports" that she is providing to the Gestapo in exchange for her life, and they are without a doubt some of the very dullest passages I've read in a really long time. There's lots of technical airplane talk that I understood not at all and, quite frankly, nothing very exciting that happens. I truly lost count of the number of times I almost put the book down. We see, through Verity's reports, the growing friendship between the two girls, and we get some sense of Verity's captors and her prison (both awful). It was all largely boring to me.
The one exception to that is Verity's voice. It had this great cavalier quality to it, and a sense of humor and irony that I was glad she could muster considering her surroundings. I admired her pluck greatly and often wished she wasn't telling stories of mind-numbing dullness because I got a sense that she would've had a real knack for yarns. She also had this really intriguing way of giving a bunch of information in great detail and then saying things like, "Oh well, you know, I hope you don't really think that I could've remembered all of this stuff, do you?" I did really enjoy her unreliability that way. If that was missing, I'm almost 99% positive that I would have put CODE NAME VERITY down.
Which would have been a little bit of a shame, because part 2, the end of the story from Maddie's point of view, was much more my speed in more ways than the literal one. It begins just a little bit before the THING THAT HAPPENS, and it was generally more interesting to me. The plot at that point is unfurling apace and we are learning things-really incredible, mind-blowing things-about Verity. If the entirety of CODE NAME VERITY had been more like the second part, two things would have happened, and herein lies the central issue of this book for me: One, I would have liked it more. But two, the book wouldn't have been nearly as gripping at the end, and it wouldn't have been such a feat of story-telling by Elizabeth Wein. It's a catch-22 of the worst kind. I just had no patience or fondness, really, for the setup. ALAS FOREVER.
I'm sure that if you've heard anything about CODE NAME VERITY already, it's these three things: It's AMAZING, I sobbed until I drowned myself in my own tears, and "KISS ME, HARDY!" The truth about my reading of this book is that, even though I now know what all the "KISS ME, HARDY!" is about, I have to tell you that I did not cry. At all. I didn't even well up. This is a pretty big deal for me because I cry easily and often about anything and nothing, and the THING? It's a pretty enormous, emotional THING, and I didn't really have any emotions about it more than, "Wow. That's a pretty big THING!...*crickets*" EEP!
If I can share just one more thing with you all before I wrap up and go hide myself from other readers' death glares, it would be this: I get completely that we are meant to understand that the girls are forever bffs, and that they become very close, important friends to one another. So perhaps this is because I was only mildly interested in what was going on for the first two-thirds of CODE NAME VERITY and so it escaped my notice, but I felt like I missed the development of their friendship somehow, and so when things happen later in the story, I was kind of at a loss. Writing that paragraph just made me nauseous.
Friends, I can't even tell you how high my expectations were for CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein, which was likely part of my problem going in. Seriously, the number of five-star reviews for this book from among my Goodreads friends is STAGGERING! I see people tweeting all over the place about "KISS ME, HARDY!" and then devolving into internet-tears! People say that CODE NAME VERITY is their favorite book ever, the most special book they've ever read, one of the best, most touching, most beautiful. I couldn't count myself in that number. I kept waiting for it to get better for me. Not liking this book makes me feel like a tool, and it was certainly a book that I'm glad I read, but I just don't think it was meant to be between us. I will most definitely be reading the companion book, ROSE UNDER FIRE, though, because I recognize an excellent storyteller when I see one, and Elizabeth Wein is surely one.
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.
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.