Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
OverviewGenre: Historical Fiction
PROS:girl power in wwII, friendship, heroine hall of famer
CONS:blubbery mess making, chill-inducing violence
This is definitely a book to savor, to re-read immediately, and to come back to several times over your reading life.
Normally, I’m of the mind that a few light spoilers for a book do more to pique a reader’s interest than to damage the reading experience, so I’m usually not opposed to giving a cheeky high-five to the not-too-twisty plot details that I loved about a book. In the case of Code Name Verity, I’m genuinely afraid that would spoil the magic.
At the core of the story are two characters, a pilot and a spy, both women, brought together in extraordinary circumstances given their sex, ages, and stations. But just as the War is obliterating class lines in Europe, it’s also bringing women and minorities into greater focus as capable workers and heroes. All those pesky, limiting details such as sex and race that seemed so important before the Nazis began blitzing and steamrolling most of Europe take a back seat during the war effort.
All of this is in the description, so I’m not revealing anything new; I bring it up to say that given the setup, this book could have been content to remain a simple, rollicking feminist adventure story about two girls stepping up to fight the Nazis in World War II (and I would have LOVED it). But it is so much richer, deeper and more affecting than that.
Code Name Verity is a masterfully plotted, voice driven story full of carefully doled out secrets, narrative aerobatics, and fiercely drawn characters—the kind that crash land into your heart, and start making themselves comfy for an indefinite stay.
I can’t get the voice of one character in particular out of my head. I won’t say who speaks this quote, or the name of the person it refers to (because names are important in this book and could be spoilerish), but it perfectly describes how I feel about her:
“With her words in my mind while I’m reading, she is as real as I am. Gloriously daft, drop-dead charming, full of bookish nonsense and foul language, brave and generous.”
(Yes, that describes pretty much the perfect BFF for any bookish nerd/nerdlette.) The second sentence is somehow both right on the money and hideously insufficient at doing her justice. She is one of the most impressive larger-than-life characters I’ve come across in a long while.
This is definitely a book to savor, to re-read immediately, and to come back to several times over your reading life. It reminds me why I like to tell and be told stories. It’s a celebration of how much hope remembered stories and books can give a person, and a reminder of how very powerful words are—and how they can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
Code Name Verity is one of those rare stories that just refuses to be finished with you after you’ve read the last word. Moments both quiet and explosive are burned into my brain and resurface at the most inopportune moments to make me shudder, smile, and yes, tear up. Sometimes happily, sometimes not so happily. But I don’t want to forget a single one of those moments.
Click here to read the first chapter and get hooked on Code Name Verity.