Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is one of those books that has been talked about to death already. You’ve probably already read a review of it, and that review was probably positive. I can’t say that my review will contribute anything very different – I loved this book to death. But if you still haven’t read the book, I hope my review will convince you to pick it up. (I know so many of you were waiting with bated breath for me to weigh in before making your reading choice…)
Verity is a young, female spy for the British during World War II. She makes a small mistake while on assignment in German-occupied France, and that mistake leads to her capture by the Germans. She’s tortured over the course of many weeks and finally agrees to write down everything she knows for her captors. The majority of Code Name Verity is this confession, which details how she came to be a spy, what she does for the British war effort, and her friendship with the English pilot Maddie, the young woman who dropped Verity (via plane) in France.
In the words of my favorite guest reviewer, this is a story that unfolds. You have to trust Verity (even though it’s a given that her words are misleading) and Wein to lead you to the place you were meant to be. You have to trust that they’ll give you the information you need, when you need it. You have to believe the voice in your head that tells you “Things are going to go down! Revelations will be had!” They will. And it’s done so expertly – not all at once, with a huge surprise that makes you gasp, but slowly, over many pages, so your eyes grow wide and your heart twists in anticipation and pain. Lots of pain. Yeah, it’s that kind of book.
Of course, Code Name Verity doesn’t inspire only love and cuddles. Kelly wasn’t really a fan – she found it slow and boring. (Don’t worry, we are still friends.) I can understand this point of view. I have a built-in interest in World War II, spies, and females in positions of power, and I have a friend who is a pilot. If none of these topics interest you, you may have a hard time connecting with the story. I’m also fascinated by unreliable narrators, and Wein triumphs in that respect with Verity. Because of all these things, I didn’t find the book slow at all.
I also have to admit that I’m seeing this book in a whole new light since I learned that my best friend in town is moving two hours away. Code Name Verity is, aside from all those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph, very much a story about friendship: what it feels like when it starts (akin to falling in love) and how it affects your actions after it’s established. My friend isn’t going to be captured by the Germans (at least I don’t think so), but there’s no denying the sense of loss regardless.
I really want to see Code Name Verity get some Printz recognition. I think Wein took a lot of risks in her writing style here, and those risks paid off hugely. She really is in a class by herself in terms of artistry. And despite its naysayers, I think it’s incredibly exciting. It’s also undeniably deep, intelligent, and has a lot to say about friendship, which resonated with me on a personal level and has affected others in the same way, too.
Borrowed from my library. Code Name Verity is available now.
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  1. says

    I found the first half slow, and then was kicking myself in the second half, because I had to go back and read the first half! The second definitely made up for, and changed the impact of, the first.

  2. says

    I second all those emotions! I can see how some people might find it slow, and I will say that it took me a couple of weeks to read it. I didn't want to turn to it with less than my full concentration because the story was so intricate. I think it's one of those books that if it's not your thing, it's not your thing. But count me among the people who looooooved it!

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