Publilsher: Egmont Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2012
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.
It has been very interesting to see the reviews for Code Name Verity stack up. Most have been either positively glowing, or the I did not finish/forced myself to finish this abysmally boring book type review; there isn't really much middle ground. As a long-time fan of Elizabeth Wein I cannot say I am surprised. I have long loved her books, but then I love historical fiction with an emphasis on the historical and a light touch on the fiction. I like it Dragnet style -- you know, the names have been changed but the stories are real. Tim O'Brien style real stories -- any of them could have happened, some of them did, and good luck figuring out which ones are which. I have long since given up on accurately predicting who else will love Wein's books.
All of the hallmarks I have come to expect from a Wein book are present in Code Name Verity. Relentless attention to detail (both historical and otherwise). Subtly laid clues that you only pick up on in retrospect ("How did I miss that?!"). An unflinching acceptance of the fact that even the most evil of human characteristics are still human, (the result of which have been some of the most interesting and nuanced "bad guys" I have ever read). And, of course, the amazing heroines. Women who are cunning and fierce and brave and do unthinkably difficult things because they must be done. The women in Code Name Verity are, I think, her best yet. Sometimes her heroines are a little too...much for me -- I admire them but don't always relate to them. I had no such problem here. ( In fact, I can't help but think that if I ever met Elizabeth Wein face to face I would be a bit in awe of her. Is she as formidable and dignified and smart as her characters?)
Here are the reasons I love Code Name Verity. First, it is epistolary with the action-y current parts told in first person (making it much more pressing) and the more pleasant history told in third person. I think that was an absolutely brilliant idea on Wein's part for separating the past narration from the present. It is about real things that real women were doing in the World War II. (Yes, we did more than grow victory gardens). Her history is spot on -- I know even Homer nods and all that, but I defy the casual reader to spot an inaccuracy that Wein herself doesn't point out in her notes. It is a story told from an Allied perspective that still shows the Germans to be capable of the full range of human emotions and behaviours, not just the bad ones. On a related note, Wein acknowledges all the different aspects of what was going on at the time, but she doesn't really play the sympathy card. "Just the facts, Ma'am." (Of course, the different ways that her crafty and unreliable narrator will present those facts can get awfully twisty!) It is about air planes and flying and female pilots! (I became obsessed with female pilots after Ezra Idlet gave me a copy of Beryl Markham's West With the Night one evening after a long discussion about great female characters in books.) Finally, it's also a wonderfully written story of a beautiful friendship; they love each other so much that you can't help but love them for it. Code Name Verity reminds me of nothing so much as Rick Yancey's Mostrumologist books. It is not for everyone, and many of the things that make it so exceptional to its fans are what will turn everyone else off. But, if any of those things sound appealing, this could end up being one of your favorite books ever.
"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend." - pg 68
"And I envied her that she had chosen her work herself and was doing what she wanted to do. I don't suppose I had any idea what I "wanted" and so I was chosen, not choosing. There's glory and honor in being chosen. But not much room for free will." - p138
4.5 of 5 Stars
This review also appears on Goodreads; a review copy was provided by the publisher.