Review | Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, #1)

Reviewer: Christina
Release Date: February 6, 2012 (original publication)
Publisher: Egmont Press (original publisher)
Age Group: YA
Genres: Historical, war
Pages: 447 (paperback)
Format/Source: Audiobook, Downloaded from Audiobook Sync
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating: 5/5

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

I admit it: I was skeptical when first told to read Code Name Verity.

A friend of mine had read it and was relentlessly recommending it to me, saying that it would give me all the feels, but I was hesitant to read this book because a) I’m not really a huge fan of historical fiction, and b) I don’t like diary-style books. I probably dislike the former because of one too many badly written historical fiction books in my younger years – you know, the ones that feel stiff, forced, and educational. Also, too many of these historical fiction books were set in time periods that didn’t interest me in the least, which left me with a lasting grudge against the genre that is most likely unwise. I dislike the latter, diary-style books, because so many of them are written in a way that seems juvenile or petty.

But at the same time, I was curious, because this friend who read and loved Code Name Verity is a very hard reader to impress, plus we have similar tastes. And the historical period did interest me at least a little – though this is mostly thanks to The Book Thief. (Beautiful book, that one, so read it if you haven’t already.) So when it was available in the school library one day, I decided to give it a shot.

I just couldn’t do it. I only got through a few pages before I put the book away, feeling disappointed. The narration was coming at me all wrong, and I couldn’t warm up to any of the characters. Perhaps I was in a reading slump or I just wasn’t in the mood that day, because I ended up returning that hardcover of Code Name Verity to the library without ever finishing it.

Oh, I regret that.

I decided to try again when the audiobook version came up for free download on Audiobook SYNC, because I really did want to find out what was go great about it. Let me tell you this: if you have the time, YOU NEED THIS AUDIOBOOK.

That’s right – after falling flat in the print version, Code Name Verity came back to totally stun me in the audiobook, and I’m thinking of reading through the print version sometime as well.

The great strength here, I think, was how well these two mediums fit each other. Since the book’s two parts were done to portray girls writing their thoughts and feelings on paper, the narration reads like someone speaking – very casual, full of little outbursts, almost conversational. And when that narration was actually spoken, it totally brought the book to life. The first part of the book is narrated by the title character Verity, who is (I think) voiced by Morven Christie. Then we switch over to Maddie’s point of view, voiced by Lucy Gaskell. These narrators did so, SO much for the book, with flawless accents for every different part of Britain that a character might be from, and crisp, clear tones in the French and German bits. Besides that, they were also absolutely perfect voice actresses, full of emotion and bluntness in all the right places. And that helped bring out the raw beauty of this wonderful, wonderful book.

The writing style, despite its seeming inconsistency, is actually achingly well-done once you really settle into it. The descriptions of places and people are spot-on (and often, in the case of people, very funny), with an appreciation for the little good things in order to put the bigger things in perspective. There’s also an obvious passion for flying that sneaks into the text, especially when Maddie is in a plane and the glory of the scenery is spread out below her.

It almost makes me want to try flying a plane myself. (Almost.)

(Even the best books can’t shake my fear of heights, okay?)

Both Verity and Maddie are equally strong, distinctive characters who have strengths and weaknesses that are so relatable and so realistic that they could be real people. Verity was a mystery to me at first – at once cowardly and brave, fierce and wilting. But that only brought her closer to my heart, because who doesn’t experience that combination of traits? No one can be afraid or courageous all the time. If people were that consistent, life would be much simpler. So Verity’s inconsistency and complexity really spoke to me on a personal level, and her relentless hope was heartening and bitter at the same time. Besides, she’s a crazy, crazy soul, and fierce and loving and wonderful. Maddie seems a little more muted at first, but solid and steadfast and just as brave. They are both so brave.

Really, what I love about both of them is that they’re not afraid to feel.

And did I mention the bond that these two girls have? It’s TRANSCENDENT AND LOVELY. It’s the kind of thing you long to read stories about, the kind of friendship you long to have with someone. It’s one of those book friendship that renews your faith in humanity every time you think about it. Even if this does presumptuous, I’m going to say it: I’m convinced that this will be a classic book friendship a hundred years from now.

Also, the women and girls in this book. They’re awesome and they kick butt just as much as the boys do (or occasionally more than the boys *wink*) and it’s NEVER a problem. Maddie routinely saves the lives of both girls and guys and makes it clear that she is as good as or better than most of her male peers at her job. This is okay with everyone.

Plus (this isn’t really a spoiler, so I’ll just leave it out here) JAMIE AND MADDIE. I ship them from now until the end of time. You’ll figure out what I’m talking about soon enough if you read the book.

Anyhow, this is an extremely emotional, character-driven story – which, naturally, makes me very emotional as well. It was extremely moving, and brilliant in the way it played on my FEELS. But don’t be fooled by my use of the descriptor “character-driven”, because the storyline itself is genius. The coincidences and connections that find and link Maddie and Verity over their separation are slap-in-the-face stunning. The effortless weave between the past and the present in the narrative is gorgeously executed. Best of all, even with so many plot threads working themselves into the story, I never got confused.

And this is such a wondrous and terrifying portrait of World War II as well. You can tell that lots and lots of research has been done by the way the story-world comes together so seamlessly, and the war is looked at from so many different perspectives. For example, I knew basically nothing about the British Air Transport Auxiliary before I read Code Name Verity, but now I feel as if I’ve learned a great deal about it. I’ve been able to look at the war through so many different lenses: von Linden, Verity, Maddie, French resistance members, Gestapo officers – you name it.

So, to summarize all of that: PERFECTION. I honestly did not have a single problem with this book – in fact, I’d go so far as to add it to my list of favorite books ever, because just thinking about it puts me in a profoundly fangirl-y mood. You will cry about this, laugh about this, and generally adore it. This was hard to review, definitely, because I wasn’t quite sure where to start. But my love for this is unending. Truly.

(Kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me, quick!)


2 thoughts on “Review | Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, #1)

  1. Amy Wallin says:

    I have been wanting to read this book for ages! I love war books – particularly the second world war. But you have definitely convinced me to move it up the queue.=)

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