Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 7, 2013 by Disney Hyperion (First edition published in 2012)
Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery, Adventure
Series: Young Pilots #1
Awards: Michael L. Printz Honor Book, 2013
Edgar Award for Best Young Adult, 2013
UK Literary Association Award, 2013
Golden Kite Award Honor Book, 2013
MLA: Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1423152880. Paperback, $9.99.
Find it in your local library!
Queenie and Maddie, spy and pilot, are best friends, working together for the Allied war effort during World War II. When their plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France, captured Queenie must choose between execution and betrayal, and her decision to tell the truth changes everything.
First of all, I beg of you… DO NOT Google this book before you read it. Resist the urge. You don’t want to read any spoilers, trust me. The wait is BEYOND worth it.
Now that we’ve got that covered…
It’s 1943. A British spy plane is shot down over Nazi-occupied France, carrying Maddie (the extremely talented young pilot) and Queenie (spy extraordinaire, and Maddie’s best friend) to their respective fates. Queenie is caught by the Gestapo and imprisoned, where she is forced to put to paper the story of how she got there in the first place, complete with specifics about the Allies’ wireless codes and airfields. Through Queenie’s detailed account of her friendship with Maddie, from their initial meeting through the final ill-fated flight to France, we are graced with a fascinating and heroic tale about war, friendship, and the meaning of truth.
Code Name Verity transports us back in time to life in Europe during World War II, when women’s roles were changing in the midst of wartime duty and for anyone involved in the war effort, “careless talk costs lives.” Maddie and Queenie’s friendship evolves into a deep and rare connection that comes from trusting someone you love in order to survive. These girls are incredibly brave, despite Queenie’s insistence to the contrary when she repeats throughout the book, “I am a coward.” She is in fact not a coward, and it won’t take you very long to figure out that the kind of courage demonstrated by these best friends is the kind we all want to be known for in our own lives.
There’s only so much I can tell you about the plot of Code Name Verity, but I can tell you that this book truly has it all – adventure, history, feminism, friendship, and self-discovery, even some dry humor sprinkled throughout. Just when you think you know where Code Name Verity’s plot is headed, you’re thrown another curveball that will keep you reading long into the night. There is a lot of historical jargon in the book– I found myself looking up Maddie’s different planes to get a better visual as I was reading. (I generously posted a bunch of them for you on my Code Name Verity Pinterest board.) The torture Queenie endures at the hands of the Gestapo is pretty graphic at times, so a warning there if you are bothered more than most by that kind of thing, though I think it adds to the authenticity of the story and I wouldn’t call it gratuitous. Finally, I was unexpectedly weeping (not just crying – actual sobs) at certain points, which speaks to how affecting this book can be and how intense the friendship is between Queenie and Maddie.
VerdictI absolutely adored Code Name Verity, coming from someone who is not generally a big historical fiction reader, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it because I want to catch all the clues that I’m certain author Elizabeth Wein (who is also a pilot – how awesome!) cleverly scattered throughout.
Highly, HIGHLY recommend, especially for fans of historical fiction or World War II, but also for anyone looking for a mystery/thriller with heapings of suspense and strong, totally fierce female protagonists.
Check out my Code Name Verity Pinterest board for images of Maddie's planes!
If you're interested in learning more about the real Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of WWII, WASP on the Web is a great resource.
Here's the UK book trailer for Code Name Verity: