Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 343p. Grades 9+. Historical Fiction. (2013 Printz Honor).
A British spy captured by the Nazis in Occupied France and a pilot in Britain’s Women’s Auxiliary Air Force tell the story of their friendship in this gripping, emotionally charged novel. With a unique diary-like narrative format, Code Name Verity weaves together historical facts, adventure, and the magic of finding a true friend to create an unforgettable story of two regular girls caught up in the extraordinary circumstances of World War II.
Analysis- This was definitely one of the best books I read this semester…maybe THE best. I felt like everything in Code Name Verity fit together in perfect harmony—the voices of Julie and Maddie, the carefully researched history of the WAAF, the giant twist in the middle, the hidden clues in Julie’s narration—it all worked so well for me and just made the novel sing. I kept myself away from spoilers and did not skip to the end of the book (which I almost always do) in order to preserve the narrative drive and then raced through Julie’s portion only to find myself continually flipping back and forth during Maddie’s narration.
The best thing for me about this novel was the friendship between Maddie and Julie—a friendship I don’t think is typical for YA lit or literary depictions of women in general. The two young women in this book are loyal to each other, and though they both admire characteristics the other possesses, they never stoop to back-stabbing or jealous behavior. They are NOT “mean girls,” and to me they depict a truer reflection of real friendship than most stories about women do. Additionally, I really enjoyed learning about a lesser-known part of the British war effort during World War II, the skills need for piloting, and the Nazi regime in France during the Occupation—all things I could tell Wein spent a great deal of time and effort researching.
As I have mentioned before, I love a book that forces me to work, one that is a puzzle, and Code Name Verity really does. I think I’d need to read it again to truly absorb all the nuances of the storyline and to untangle all the threads Wein manages to weave together. Because of its complex narrative structure, the sophisticated literary allusions (particularly those pertaining to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan), and the age of the protagonists, I think this book would be most appreciated by older teens although advanced young readers, especially ones with an interest in World War II, might also enjoy it.