Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: Wartime violence
A British spy, Verity, is caught by the Gestapo in France and forced to tell her story. The story she tells, about two young girls, one of whom, Maddie, becomes a pilot, seems to have little to do with her own tale, but the Gestapo agent in charge is patient. As a reader, you have to be patient too, because the first hundred pages of the novel are pretty confusing. But gradually, there’s an enormous payoff for a reader who is willing to live with the ambiguities of the story. As you would expect in a war story, there’s hope and action and love and unthinkable loss.
At first, I didn’t think the novel fit the YA parameters. After all, the main characters are adults. In fact, there are very few children in the novel. But now that a few weeks have passed since I finished reading, I actually like the classification. It’s a book that will require more effort than, say, the latest Wendy Mass book, but it’s also the kind of book that I desperately want the girls I know to read. I want them to know about the struggles of women that have gone before, and how women like these characters had to make hard choices and be strong– stronger than they even knew was possible.
I had heard that the book was a shocker and full of codes, so I spent the whole time I read looking for signs and symbols. Ultimately, I think that made the read less satisfying. I had a “that’s it?” moment when I came to the end, but it was still a wonderful novel.