I had heard a lot of great reviews of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, but I wasn’t sure if I would want to read it. I don’t often read historical fiction, especially not war fiction. Also, the cover kind of freaked me out. (I know, I know–don’t judge a book by its cover. But everyone does it!) But since I’d heard so much about Code Name Verity (and observed Abby ignoring everybody at lunch so she could read more of it), I decided I might as well jump in and read it myself. And I’m super glad I did!
One reason why I don’t often read historical fiction is because I have a degree in history and it’s possible I know too much about history. Inaccurate details pull me out of the story. But I often don’t want to read historical fiction that’s too accurate, because the truth is that history was not kind to women or minorities. And I also don’t like it when it’s clear that an author has done a lot of research and wants to use every single piece of information they found about an era, when a historical novel starts to feel like a textbook that’s just awkwardly defining every single piece of equipment in an entire house. Elizabeth Wein is a very, very crafty woman because she picked World War II–a great time in history to write about female characters with independence and goals. And she also has the perfect narrative device for explaining things that modern readers don’t know about, since much of the story is Verity (a British agent) telling her story to the Nazi guards who have captured her.
In addition to its flawless, non-boring use of historical setting, Code Name Verity has great characters and an extremely compelling, unpredictable storyline. I don’t want to give away too much, but the story focuses on Verity (a code name–she’s a British radio operator, translator and spy) and Maddie (a British pilot). Verity and Maddie both have rich backstories for how they came to be involved with the British military. Their story is of a great friendship and of the bravery and sacrifice that so many citizens show in wartime. I’m literally tearing up at my desk right now just thinking about this book, and I read it over a month ago. I want to read it again soon. I read it very fast because I had to know what happened, but it was so well-written that I’m sure I missed great stuff as I zipped through it.
Reviewed by: Teen librarian Renata
Recommended to: Anyone who wants a story about great friends and great acts of bravery, especially if you like historical fiction but even if you don’t.