Review Blog

Aug 03 2012

Code name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

cover image

Electric Monkey, 2012. ISBN 9781405258210.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. A Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book for Fiction (2012) and a Scottish Children's Book Award Nominee for Older Readers 12-16, this is a heart wrenching story of two young women during World War 2. 'I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do' and so begins a thrilling and exhausting tale of bravery, espionage and flying the night skies under fire written by a young woman who is being interrogated by SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer von Linden.
When I first started this book, I wasn't sure if I would want to continue with it, as it had all the hallmarks of a tear jerker and with an opening like that I knew that a miracle would have to happen for it to end happily. And yes, it was a tearjerker, but so compelling that I had to continue reading through my tears while sitting in an airport lounge.
The voice of the narrator is strong, and even though you know the narrative is unreliable (after all, if you were being tortured how could you keep it reliable?), it pushes the story forward and as a reader I got totally caught up in war-torn Britain and France.
What I loved about the book was the quiet heroism of the young women. Through Queenie's eyes we learn about Maddie, the mechanic who is mad about engines and who learns to fly, and the role that women played in the war, especially in the Air Transport Auxiliary, ferrying planes from one location to another. The characters and their friendship and relationships with others felt so authentic that I couldn't help wondering if they were based on real people. The author gives an afterword and a bibliography at the end of the book that answers some of these questions.
I loved reading about the French Resistance, espionage and war pilots when I was young, and Code name Verity will gain another group of readers who will love the thrill of this genre. It is a book that is sure to appear on more award winning lists.
Pat Pledger

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