Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity  - Elizabeth Wein

Plot Summary: A British spy has been discovered in Nazi-occupied France. She's made a deal with the devil - to write down everything she knows, betraying her country, in two weeks. For everything that she writes down, the more time she has to live. The spy's story is intertwined with that of her best friend, a female pilot in the Royal Airforce Auxiliary. Cod Name Verity is the story of these two incredible girls - how they became friends and how they found a way to survive the turmoil of World War II. 


Interview with Elizabeth Wein: 



This video is a bit sporadic as it's a recording of a Google chat book club interview with Wein, and it's over an hour long so if you want to watch it you'll want to set a side a good chunk of time. It has some moments that aren't really relevant - such as when Wein introduces her cat to everyone - but, that being said, these girls ask Wein some great questions about the book and she gives some really insightful answers, so if you take the time to watch it, it is worthwhile. 




This book is so good! Although I found it a bit slow at the beginning, it definitely picked up and by the end I could not put it down. I liked that Code Name Verity tells the story of both Queenie and Maddie, and it's told from both of their perspectives. 


One of my favorite things about this book is that it focuses on the often untold story of the involvement of women in World War II. Although at this time, women were not heavily involved in war, they did still play a part, and that part is sometimes ignored. I loved that Wein centered her story around it. For once, the character of a woman spy is not a villain, but a hero - in a world where the most famous fictional spy is the misogynistic but beloved James Bond, this is unique and refreshing.  


The story has lots of twists and surprises. I really enjoyed how cleverly Queenie's messages to the resistance were hidden - once you knew about them, you could go back and find them quite easily, but on the first encounter, they're either so well hidden that you don't even notice them, or so glaringly obvious that you discredit them simply because they're so conspicuous. Stylistically, I really enjoyed the frame of Peter Pan. I love that story and the inclusion of it in Code Name Verity added a bit of sweetness and innocence to a story that has lots of darkness and tragedy. 


Ultimately, this is a story of friendship. There's no romance in it; it's a story simply about two girls who are the best of friends, and how that friendship gets them through the impossible struggles of war. I admire Wein's choice to write about two teenage girls and completely leave boys out of it - in most cases, this would be impossible, but in times war, it's possible to leave romance out. Since most YA lit that's written for girls involves romance, this is refreshing - not that I don't like romance, but Wein shows it is indeed possible to for authors to write about something else - and for books to be just as enjoyable without it. 


Recommended to: 


Well, to be honest, I would recommend this to just about anyone who came to me and asked me if I could suggest a good YA novel to them. But to be more specifically, I would recommend this to people with a strong interest in historical fiction and World War II in general. I think that this could be incredibly valuable to use in a YA book club that focuses on feminism in YA literature. We talk so much about the battles and the politics of World War II, but, as mentioned in my review, the role of women is often ignored. This could very useful in showing how women could be heroes, even in a predominantly patriarchal society. 


I would caution against using this with younger audiences. While it is perfect for high school age patrons, there are some very dark moments such as


Queenie's rape/sexual abuse and her eventual death

(show spoiler)

. Although the former is only alluded to and its mention is so subtle that it's easily ignored, there is pretty traumatic violence in the book that could be deemed inappropriate for pre-teens.