Code Name Verity
By Elizabeth Wein
(Disney-Hyperion, Hardcover, 9781423152194, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
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Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called "a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel" in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
Elizabeth Wein (www.elizabethwein.com) was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes and is the editor of the Scottish Aero Club's newsletter. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania.
It was a strange and wonderful year for young adult fiction, says critic Maggie Stiefvater. Debates raged over what constituted a young adult novel versus an adult novel. This list isn't concerned with classification â?? it rounds up five magical books for young adults and grown-ups alike. More at NPR.org
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The book opens on a simple premise: Verity is a captured British spy handing what information she has of the Allied war effort over to her Gestapo captors, and the novel constitutes her written confession of all the events that brought her to this crossroads. Verity is a born storyteller, and she interweaves this confession with memories of her best friend, Maddie, the pilot who dropped her into Nazi-occupied France and who may not have survived landing the plane. Wein imbues the focused perspective with incredible richness (Verity's allusions to torture and the horrors of her confinement, along with jagged tonal shifts, allow her desperation to bleed through her matter-of-fact narration) and layers of implication: Is Verity escaping into happier memories? Using her final testament to pay tribute to her friend's truncated life? Toying with her captors to draw out the dim possibility of rescue? Or is there more encoded in this last missive than readers can glean? This innovative spy tale flips the standard progression of the rescue novel to brilliant effect, beginning with a heroine whose doom seems inevitable and then ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels through the sparing introduction of hope. When the focalization shifts midway through the novel, Wein starts to masterfully, inexorably fit the puzzle pieces into a harrowing whole that invites readers to re-examine all that came before even as it keeps them frantically turning the pages for the next revelation. Verity and Maddie are believable and utterly compelling in their strengths and fears and motivations, and their commitment to each other in the face of extreme peril will speak to a broad spectrum of readers. Verity's obsession with getting her story in writing and her references to the many other stories that intersect hers (the other prisoners, the Jewish girl whose name graces the flute music used as paper for part of Verity's confession) are powerful invitations to consider all the untold stories, all the voices silenced in war, all the heroics that unfolded in the absence of surviving witnesses. This is a dense novel built to be savored, with a vivid friendship at its core and courage and heartbreak infused into every struggle. An author's note explains the historical research, and a bibliography offers suggestions for further reading on the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, France during the German occupation, and Allied female spies in World War II. CG—BCCB
4Q 4P S Captured by the Gestapo after her plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France, Verity's only chance of survival is collaborating with her Nazi interrogator. Initially told from the perspective of Maddie, Verity's best friend and pilot of the crashed plane, her detailed confession reveals the transformation of two ordinary girls into integral parts of the English war effort and their journey to adulthood in an increasingly volatile world. Maddie and Verity's extraordinary bravery is reflected in frank narrative as they both fight against time and a horrific, powerful enemy. Although Verity is portrayed as a character mature beyond her years, her language sometimes seems childish and inconsistent with the individual described in her confession. The reading level could be appropriate for high school students. The graphic torture scenes, adult themes, violence, and some profane language place it firmly in the high school demographic. The themes of hope, friendship, and determination even in the most impossible situations are relevant to all readers. Although the depiction of Nazi practices throughout may be disturbing to some individuals, they are historically accurate and will lead to thoughtful discussion. The conclusion is unexpected and heartbreaking but altogether fitting with the premise and the novel's classification as "a World War II thriller." -Susan Allen, with teen book club and Anya Schulman.—VOYA
Julie and Maddie are brought together by their desire to serve their country during World War II. One is trained as a spy to work with the French Resistance; the other ferries military planes and special human cargo between British military airfields. The novel opens with Julie already captured and tortured by the Gestapo. She declares herself a coward for agreeing to tell the Nazis the wireless codes in return for her clothes. Julie frames the information she gives her captors within the story of how she and Maddie became friends. Julie's section abruptly ends with a command to send her to a nightmarish death. The next part is the counterpoint to Julie's section. It is in Maddie's slim section that Wein skillfully ratchets up the tension and places Julie's section into its true perspective. This is a tale of friendship and courage. This is historical fiction at its finest, shining a light on a part of World War II rarely addressed in YA literature. Esther Sinofsky, Ph.D., Administrative Coordinator, Los Angeles (California) Unified School District Highly Recommended—Library Media Connection
Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II. In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherazade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information-"everything I can remember about the British War Effort"-in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place. A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)—Kirkus
Wein's exceptional-downright sizzling-abilities as a writer of historical adventure fiction are spectacularly evident in this taut, captivating story of two young women, spy and pilot, during World War II. Wein gives us the story in two consecutive parts-the first an account by Queenie (aka Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart), a spy captured by the SS during a mission in Nazi-occupied France. Queenie has bargained with Hauptsturmfuhrer von Linden to write what she knows about the British war effort in order to postpone her inevitable execution. Sounding like a cross between Swallows and Amazons's Nancy Blackett and Mata Hari, she alternately succumbs to, cheeks, and charms her captors (and readers) as she duly writes her report and, mostly, tells the story of her best friend Maddie, the pilot who dropped her over France, then crashed. Spoiler: unbeknownst to Queenie, Maddie survived the crash; part two is Maddie's "accident report" and account of her efforts to save Queenie. Wein gives us multiple doubletakes and surprises as she ratchets up the tension in Maddie's story, revealing Queenie's joyously clever duplicity and the indefatigable courage of both women. This novel positively soars, in part no doubt because the descriptions of flying derive from Wein's own experience as a pilot. But it's outstanding in all its features-its warm, ebullient characterization; its engagement with historical facts; its ingenious plot and dramatic suspense; and its intelligent, vivid writing. --deirdre f. baker—Horn Book
What is truth? The significance of Julia Beaufort-Stuart's alias, "Code Name Verity," takes on double meaning in this taut, riveting, thriller. When the story begins, Julia is an unnamed prisoner, formerly a wireless operator for the British, held captive in France by a seemingly sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom, giving pieces of code in exchange for her life. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot. Their unlikely friendship Julia is a noblewoman, Maddie a commoner forms the backbone of the novel, and Wein seamlessly weaves its threads throughout the book, tying them like the knots of a rope. As Julia tells their story, she also reveals small bits of her attempts at survival and escape. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery. This intricate tale is not for the faint of heart, and readers will be left gasping for the finish, desperate to know how it ends. With a seemingly unreliable narrator, strong friendship, wonderful historical details, and writing that fairly crackles on the page, this is an excellent book for thoughtful readers and book-discussion groups. Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA—SLJ
If you pick up this book, it will be some time before you put your dog-eared, tear-stained copy back down. Wein succeeds on three fronts: historical verisimilitude, gut-wrenching mystery, and a first-person voice of such confidence and flair that the protagonist might become a classic character-if only we knew what to call her. Alternately dubbed Queenie, Eva, Katharina, Verity, or Julie depending on which double-agent operation she's involved in, she pens her tale as a confession while strapped to a chair and recovering from the latest round of Gestapo torture. The Nazis want the codes that Julie memorized as a wireless operator before crash-landing in France, and she supplies them, but along the way also tells of her fierce friendship with Maddie, a British pilot whose quiet gumption was every bit as impressive as Julie's brash fearlessness. Though delivered at knifepoint, Julie's narrative is peppered with dark humor and minor acts of defiance, and the tension that builds up between both past and present story lines is practically unbearable. A surprise change of perspective hammers home the devastating final third of the book, which reveals that Julie was even more courageous than we believed. Both crushingly sad and hugely inspirational, this plausible, unsentimental novel will thoroughly move even the most cynical of readers. - Daniel Kraus—Booklist
Wein (The Empty Kingdom) serves up a riveting and often brutal tale of WWII action and espionage with a powerful friendship at its core. Captured Scottish spy Queenie has agreed to tell her tale-and reveal any confidential information she knows-in exchange for relief from being tortured by Nazis. Her story, which alternates between her early friendship with a pilot named Maddie and her recent sufferings in prison, works both as a story of cross-class friendship (from an upper-crust family, Queenie realizes that she would likely never have met Maddie under other circumstances) and as a harrowing spy story (Queenie's captor, von Loewe, is humanized without losing his menace). Queenie's deliberately rambling and unreliable narration keeps the story engaging, and there are enough action sequences and well-delivered twists (including a gut-wrenching climax and late revelations that will have readers returning to reread the first half of the book) to please readers of all stripes. Wein balances the horrors of war against genuine heroics, delivering a well-researched and expertly crafted adventure. Ages 14 up.—PW