If there was ever a harder book to write about and keep it spoiler-free it’s this one.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein falls into one of my genre kryptonite categories of World War II fiction.
If you have been around this blog for a while you know that I speak really highly of City of Thieves by David Benioff, another buddy story, this time featuring POWs.
You may also know that book is always constantly on the tip of my tongue. It appeared in just about every tag that I did over the last few months.
So be warned, I may not shut up about this one either.
I had no idea this book existed until I stumbled across it on Goodreads but I was immediately interested in the story.
The story behind Code Name Verity is really hard to explain in a few simple sentences, so I am including the back jacket copy.
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.
As you may guess from this synopsis, we meet our heroine after she’s struck a deal with an interrogator. She’s going to write a confession, her story about the British War Effort.
This book has opening lines that have to be amongst my favorites ever.
I AM A COWARD.
I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always ben good at pretending. I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers–and even though I am a girl, they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the most rousing battle speeches. God, I tried hard last week. My God, I tried. But I know I am a coward.
At first, I got a copy from my local library and tried to settle in to read it, but quickly I was overwhelmed by detail. Wein’s writing is so rich and so detailed that I couldn’t processed what was written on the page when I usually read in the evenings.
On a chance I listened to a sample of the audiobook, and that sounded more my speed. I ended up buying the ebook and the audiobook so that I could make notes as the story progressed.
I had expected that this book wouldn’t take me very long to read/listen to at all, but I was wrong.
I loved the performances given by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. As they performed Wein’s beautiful work I began to realize that this book is an experience best told in the form of interactive media.
I liked being able to follow along with the book but the accents and the emotion behind each line made the audio worth every penny.
Win’s writing in this book is amazing and rich. In a debriefing at the end, she talks about how she’s pilot and how she was inspired to write this story based on the options that would have been available to her in World War II.
Sadly, the story of these two characters and the friendship they share is fictional, but that doesn’t change the emotions that it takes you though.
While I spent time laughing at certain lines of the book I found myself crying, gasping, and generally horrified all at the same time.
The first half of the book is a slow digest. It’s a very conversation tone as our heroine’s accounts are written as a stream of consciousness, but the second half it really picks up. The writing is good throughout and both of the characters are fleshed out extremely well and it kept me engaged.
One of the big selling points for this book is that love, in the romantic sense, is not a factor in this story. Sure there are hints of it, but the main story focuses mostly around these two friends and their war time duties.
The dynamic between the two characters is what drives the book and that is what keeps you enthralled.
UGH! There is so much of this book that I want to discuss, but I won’t for fear of spoiling you, so I will leave you with a few final statements:
Is this book dark?
Is it too dark for a child?
I would say yes. It’s probably more appropriate for a 11th, 12th grader than most readers of YA.
There are graphic depictions of torture and violence, not as much as you would find in a Quentin Tarantino movie, but still enough that it might make you queasy.
Would you recommend the audiobook?
Yes, the narrators gave splendid performances.
Seriously? I don’t know how much more cryptic I can be! Get off your rumps and buy this book!
FINAL RATING: 5 Stars
Code Name Verity is now available for purchase. You can purchase the audiobook through Audible and iTunes. You can purchase a physical copy of the book at your local independent bookseller, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.