Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   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.

And here's what I thought:  I'm going to keep this pretty short, because it's hard to write about this book without revealing a lot of spoilers.   What I will say is that this is a powerful story, and the author brings it to life --- so much, in fact, that it was sometimes a bit stressful to read this book.   I consider that a good thing, though, because it means that the author is making me really care about the characters, and what's happening to them.

The author includes a lot of very realistic details, and she definitely knows her history, and I think that is part of what makes this such a powerful story; there were real girls who served in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), who were in a lot of danger.  There were people who resisted the Nazis, and there were people who were interrogated and tortured.  This isn't a fantasy story, where you can say that the violence couldn't really exist because it's a made-up place, and a made-up time; this is based on real history.
Elizabeth Wein also included a lot of realistic details about flying, and the planes, which I appreciated --- I really could imagine these planes, and how it might be to fly one of them.

The one thing that did throw me off a bit was that at first, I wasn't sure who my narrator really was.  Is it Maddie?  Or Queenie?  Or someone else?   The changing perspectives takes a bit of getting used to, and I found that sometimes, I'd have to go back a few pages to get my bearing.   This was a pretty small thing, however.   The girls in this book are courageous, and smart (and sometimes, have a good sense of humor about things), and real.   I think that might be one of the most appealing things about this book: the people are real, and you feel like you're cheering for them (well, most of them .... not the SS officer, obviously) through the story.

You may have seen other reviews of this book around the blogosphere (and on GoodReads).   Some of the reviews I think are well-written can be found at author Maggie Stiefvater's blog (amazing!), and The New York Times has a great review (in which that reviewer also admits the difficulty of reviewing this book without revealing spoilers .... so I don't feel too bad about my vague review).

This is a great book.   Go find it at your local library (and then, after reading this, if you want to look up information on the planes, and the other details, your friendly librarian can point you in the right direction).



First lines:  I am a coward.  I wanted to be heroic and I presented I was.  I have always been good at pretending.  I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my give 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 now I know I am a coward.  After the ridiculous deal I made with SS Hauptsturmfurhrer von Loewe, I know I am a coward  And I'm going to give you anything you ask, everything I can remember.  Absolutely Every Last Detail.

Please note: I received this as an ARC courtesy of NetGalley, so any quotes/page numbers may change upon final publication.

2 comments:

Pepca said...

I love a good WW II novel as this one sounds to be. As much as they can be horrible and tragic, they can always teach us something important. It's going on my to-read list. thanks for sharing!

Italia said...

The book winds through flight and war terminology but transcends historical fiction with its narrator's fun, relatable, and just basically genuine voice. I found myself practically cackling with laughter at the narrator's numerous antics, even in her terrifying situation. Elizabeth Wein's writing is brilliant: the pace and style of words mimic the event that the narrator is telling, long or short, dialogue vs. narration, profound vs. charming.

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