Review

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein

Verity has two weeks to tell Captain von Linden everything she knows about British intelligence, or else she dies. Then again, even after she reveals all, she’ll probably die anyway. It’s World War II, and Verity is a British spy who was caught in occupied Paris when she looked the wrong way before crossing the street. Now she is a POW of the Nazis, and simply by keeping the journal that makes up the first half of the book, she is hated by the other prisoners, who prefer torture to giving away the secrets of their home countries.

"CODE NAME VERITY is a taut, thrilling novel that is appropriate for both for teens and adults. Elizabeth Wein has created a gripping story perfect for fans of historical fiction, adventure, mysteries or thrillers..."

But for Verity, writing down all of her secrets, all of her knowledge of British airfields and wireless codes, everything she knows about her best friend Maddie, who was flying the plane from which Verity parachuted down to Paris, is its own special kind of torture. Is it more noble to die for one’s country or to want to save oneself from death and torture? Did Verity cause Maddie’s death by parachuting out of the plane before it crashed?

Her journal becomes a place not just for Captain von Linden to learn state secrets but also a place for Verity to work out her fears, guilt, and love for her job. She is sharp and snarky, always reminding everyone that she is Scottish, not British, and managing to throw some jabs at the German officers.

CODE NAME VERITY is a taut, thrilling novel that is appropriate for both for teens and adults. Elizabeth Wein has created a gripping story perfect for fans of historical fiction, adventure, mysteries or thrillers, and she does so without sacrificing the character development and literary quality that often seems thrown to the wind in books with complicated, nuanced plots.

I can’t tell you much more about the book without giving away spoilers. It’s certainly a story you’ll want to read as quickly as possible the first time, and then you’ll want to read it again to go through it more slowly, picking out all the clues that Wein has so subtly planted. She doesn’t shy away from the violence and darkness that characterized World War II, but neither does she revel in it, instead revealing it to be at once grim, unreal, and matter-of-fact.

This is the kind of book you’ll be gifting to all of your friends this year. I know I wish I could read it again for the first time, because it was so gripping I never wanted to put it down, and I finished it all too quickly. It’s so pleasing to see a book with such a fresh, well-researched subject and without any androids, totalitarian government (or, at least, not a made-up, dystopian one), or computers. This is a part of history I’ve never seen treated before in novels or textbooks, and Verity shares with you her love of flying and intrigue, without assuming you know everything about flying a plane.

CODE NAME VERITY has just shot to the top of my Favorite New Books of 2012 list, and it will do the same to yours.

Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on June 1, 2012

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein