Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Hyperion Book, 2012, ISBN: 978-1423152194
The Nazis have captured secret agent “Verity” in occupied France. After suffering weeks of torture, she finally agrees to give them the information they are seeking. Part 1 of Code Name Verity is her confession, in which she tells the story of her experience training as an agent for the Resistance and more importantly her friendship with Maddie. Maddie is a fellow teenage girl who has been trained as a pilot and now flies covert operations into occupied France to transport supplies and sometimes people. When Part 1 ends, “Verity” has provided her Nazi guards with information about these operations and given them vital access codes to help them with their war intelligence.
Or has she?
Part II of the book is told from Maddie’s perspective in which she recounts her attempts to find and rescue her friend before the Nazi’s kill her (and because they’re Nazi’s, they first plan to perform painful experiments on her body). In her attempt to locate her friend, Maddie becomes trapped in occupied France as well. What she discovers there changes everything you think you knew about “Verity” and her role in the war.
Code Name Verity had appeared on a number of “Best of 2012” lists for Young Adult literature. When a friend wrote and said she had cried through the whole second half of the book, I decided to make it my first book of 2013. It did not disappoint. I would call the novel historical fiction, since its details of the war are so precise and accurate, but I worry this label gives the impression that the story is long on details and short on plot. More accurately, this is an espionage thriller, in which spies double cross each other and the reader is constantly surprised at the plot’s twists and turns.
At the heart of the story is a friendship about two extraordinary girls. “Verity” is outspoken, brave, and intelligent. Maddie is introverted, more comfortable with machinery than with people. In the turbulent time of World War II, they form an unlikely, but totally convincing, friendship, as each provides the other with sources of inspiration and courage. When the Nazis capture “Verity”, I wanted her rescued, not so much for the war effort but so Maddie wouldn’t lose her closest friend. What happens to each of them caught me by complete surprise. More than once did I mutter, “I did not see that coming.” The plot’s twists all felt true and satisfying, rather than manipulative to keep the reader guessing.
Elizabeth Wein writes with such interesting and accurate detail, it’s clear she’s done her research about this time period and these military units. This is a part of the war effort that I knew nothing about and the book made me want to read about these extraordinary women who braved not only the enemy but also prejudice at home.
Information about the author
The author writes on her Amazon.com page “I was born in New York City in 1964, and moved to England when I was 3. I started school there. We lived practically in the shadow of Alderley Edge, the setting for several of Alan Garner’s books and for my own first book The Winter Prince; that landscape, and Garner’s books, have been a lifelong influence on me.
My father, who worked for the New York City Board of Education for most of his life, was sent to England to do teacher training at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University. He helped organize the Headstart program there. When I was six he was sent to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica for three years to do the same thing in Kingston. I loved Jamaica and became fluent in Jamaican patois (I can’t really speak it any more, but I can still understand it); but in 1973 my parents separated, and we ended up back in the USA living with my mother in Harrisburg, PA, where her parents were. When she died in a car accident in 1978, her wonderful parents took us in and raised us.
I went to Yale University, spent a work-study year back in England, and then spent seven years getting a PhD in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While I was there I learned to ring church bells in the English style known as “change ringing”, and in 1991 I met my future husband there at a bell ringers’ dinner-dance. He is English, and in 1995 I moved to England with him, and then to Scotland in 2000.
We share another unusual interest–flying in small planes. My husband got his private pilot’s license in 1993 and I got mine ten years later. Together we have flown in the States from Kalamazoo to New Hampshire; in Kenya we’ve flown from Nairobi to Malindi, on the coast, and also all over southern England. Alone, most of my flying has been in eastern Scotland.
We have two children.”
Young Adult Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up