Book: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages, it was on my shelf for over a year, but this year I decided to put it on my #RockMyTBR list so that I would definitely read it this year and I’m so glad I did, because I really, really enjoyed it. I think it helped that I didn’t have incredibly high expectations of this book before I went into reading it, like I did when reading my last book, Cinder, so I think that allowed me to enjoy it more. I was warned that it was a sad book before I started reading it, so you would have thought I would have been prepared for heartbreak and even though I saw it coming, I was still heartbroken! Warning for you all before reading this book, it will rip out your heart and tear it into tiny little pieces, but the pain is so, so worth it. Here’s a short synopsis of the book:
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
The first thing that struck me about this book which I really loved was Queenie’s narration. Let me explain, the story is told in two parts, first with Julie (who is the Verity of the title) narrating the story and then the second part with Maddie narrating the story. I much preferred Queenie’s narration to Maddie’s because her personality just shone through and it felt like she wasn’t just narrating a story, it felt like she was talking to you. Her sense of humour was great and I found myself hysterically laughing (in my head, I don’t often laugh out loud when reading, usually because I’m often reading on public transport!) especially at her indignance that she was Scottish every time she was referred to as English (this was probably funnier to me than most people because I go to a Scottish University). I loved Queenie, she’s smart and snarky and SCOTTISH (I get very excited here because there are barely ever any Scottish main characters in YA fiction, at least that I can think of, and having family that is Scottish, that’s very cool to me!) and she acts so well that even you don’t know as a reader when she’s acting. She was definitely the star of the book for me. Even though everything comes together in the second half of the book, I actually found the first half more entertaining, because of Queenie’s narration. I did find the dual narration very cool, because you get to see each of the characters from the other’s perspective and it’s cool to see how their views of each other are very different to their own views of themselves. I wrote in my review notepad right at the beginning that I suspected she was an unreliable narrator, but it would be spoiling to tell you if I was right or not!
It took me a while to get used to the style of storytelling used in Queenie’s narration as she jumped around all over the place in the past and the present and is mostly told through anecdotes, but once I did get used to it, I liked it. It was much easier to follow Maddie’s narration though as it went chronologically. Maddie wasn’t as outgoing and lively and enigmatic as Queenie, but she did feel infinitely more real, she was smart, brave, sweet, strong and because she wasn’t putting on a character, you really get to know her, in a way that you never really know the real Queenie.
Maddie and Queenie’s friendship is just……incredible. These two girls who never would have met without the war as one is upper class Scottish royalty and the other is the granddaughter of a bike shop owner become amazing friends. They’re complete opposites, Queenie is wild and daring and witty and Maddie’s much more reserved and quiet and shy and yet they mesh together very well. I loved their first meeting, it was one of my favourite scenes in the book. You can tell from the way Queenie talks about Maddie (and vice versa), that the two girls consider each other sisters and their friendship is just beautiful. This book is friendship goals, seriously. I think that was what made me love it, because I love strong friendships and I’m always going on and on about how I want more friendship in my books and less romance. Well this book had friendship in spades and a refreshing lack of romance (there was a hint that perhaps something may happen between Maddie and Queenie’s brother, but no more than that) and it made me so happy! Where has this book been all my life?
I’ve read a few reviews which complain about all the pilot talk and war talk making it difficult to engage with the book, but I actually really enjoyed the pilot stuff, because I got to learn a lot about WWII aeroplanes, which is not something I really knew about before and I feel like in a WWII book, you can’t exactly avoid talk about war strategies!
The feminist in me obviously loved this book because it’s a female pilot and a female spy, who are both main characters, they are the main focus, there is no romance really and it shows them navigating their way in what was at the time a man’s world doing what were considered male jobs and I found that awesome. This book definitely passes the Bechdel test with flying colours! It does a great job of showing how valuable women’s contributions to the war effort were.
I did find that the chapters were occasionally a little overly long and sometimes I found some of the phrasing of sentences a little odd, but I didn’t find that either of this things really took away from my enjoyment of the book.
Without giving anything away too much, there are several plot twists, none of which I really saw coming as Wein is a very clever and talented writer and wields her narrator incredibly well and I felt kind of stupid that I didn’t see one of the plot twists coming because it was actually very subtly pointed out in Part 1, but when reading I didn’t think anything of it, but when it was mentioned again in Part 2, I was like, uh duh! The main plot twist absolutely broke my heart, I never cry when I read, but it brought me pretty damn close!
I’m not usually a big fan of character driven rather than plot driven novels because they tend to be much less interesting, but the characters in this book were so well drawn that they kept me captivated more or less the whole way through. I appreciate the amount of detail that Elizabeth Wein put into this book, she clearly researched it thoroughly and the few parts that were not entirely historically accurate, she does, as she herself says in the author’s notes, make plausible. Her love of flying is apparent all the way through in the character of Maddie, which made me appreciate all the plane stuff even more.
The transition between character POV’s is done very well and doesn’t feel clunky, which is always a possibility when using multiple characters’ POV’s and also both girls have their own distinct voices, which is another common complaint that I have in multiple POV books, so I was glad that this book avoided both of those traps. I also loved how the character’s stories merged, I thought it was very clever, Maddie’s story and Queenie’s story were completely intertwined.
I liked that the setting of this book was in the UK and France, because it showed a side of the war that I’ve never really seen before, I can’t say I’ve really read any WWII novels that deal with the effect of the war on the UK or France (the ones I read are usually German based), so I found that very interesting.
I don’t really want to say anything else because I don’t want to spoil the book! Basically, just read it, it’s a unique take on WWII, with strong female friendship, complex in depth characters, with a little bit of action thrown in for good measure and a cleverly weaved plot with several plot twists to keep you on your toes. All I can really say is if you like historical fiction, then read this book and discover for yourself how incredible it is.
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of The Glory, by Lauren St John. Also side note, The Raven King will be released in 4 days! 4 days people, 4 days!