Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Published by Hyperion Books for Children
Released May 15, 2012
343 pages
Where I got it: E-galley received from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Description (from Goodreads):

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 and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

Code Name Verity is a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Then I started seeing the hype, with people saying how the ending had them crying and what a wonderful book it was. I still didn’t intend on reading it. Then NetGalley sent out a link and I was on the hook. They made it too difficult to ignore this book. Am I glad I read it? I guess I am, just so that I won’t always be sitting around, wondering if I missed out on some incredible story. However, minus the outside forces, Code Name Verity just didn’t really do it for me.

I had a hard time getting into this story, which is weird because Nazis and World War II history are actually interests of mine. What did it was the slow pacing of the storytelling. The first half of the book is Verity, aka Queenie, writing down all of her secrets for her Nazi captors. But this meandering prose focused largely on her friend Maddie, a girl who just wants to fly. I probably would have been okay with the recap, except that Wein does something funny with the point of view. When Queenie relates the story, she tells it from Maddie’s perspective, and speaks about herself as if she’s a secondary character. The twisted POV combined with intricate details about flying and airplanes bogged me down and made this a story I had to work at. I’d hoped I’d reach the event horizon early on, at which point I’d get sucked into the narrative, but that didn’t happen until about the final fifth of the book.

On the plus side, Wein seems to have paid a lot of attention to detail in constructing the story. She talks on this a bit at the end, and her historical fidelity really came through. My biggest problem with historical fiction is that it too often comes across as a false voice, or anachronistic, but it was notable how true Wein was to the era. Points for that.

I don’t need to tell you that Code Name Verity already has a slew of fans–a quick Goodreads glance will do it for me. However, the story was a struggle for me to read, and in the end I didn’t feel the payoff was equal to the work it took to get to that point.

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One Response to Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

  1. I have heard good things about this book, but the POV thing might be hard to grasp.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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