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Code Name Verity

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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 universally acclaimed Michael L. Printz Award Honor book, 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.

343 pages, Hardcover

First published February 6, 2012

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About the author

Elizabeth Wein

44 books2,975 followers
TIME magazine has put Code Name Verity on its list of "100 Best YA books of All Time."



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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,863 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
March 30, 2012

I have a feeling I'm not going to be very popular by posting this review, everyone seems to love this book so far and I feel more disappointed in myself and my tastes than the novel or the author. Code Name Verity is one of those books that are the reason why I created the shelf its-me-not-you. I mentioned this very recently in my review of The Book Of Blood And Shadow and it is also similar to the experience I had trying to read The Book Thief and Feed. I just found 90% of the book long-winded and unnecessary.

The novel opens where the narrator has been captured by the Nazi opposition during WWII. She is given paper to tell her story and she does so through the eyes of her friend Maddie. Different, definitely. Maddie's story is told in various anecdotes, a technique I've already failed to appreciate in The Book Thief but I suppose the intention was to subtly build up a picture of both girls' pasts and their friendship. This book is not very plot-focused or fast-paced, it's about conversations and people and female pilots during the second world war, which would all have been great if it had been balanced out with a touch of drama.

I cannot tell you just how much I wanted to like this. It's about women's involvement in the war and us Northern girls - two topics that don't get nearly enough press. But, for me, there was just too big a focus on piloting and aircraft and I'm sorry but I struggled to care. If you read the author's note at the end she will tell you that this book is actually meant to be about pilots:

"This book started off rather simply as a portrait of an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot. Being a woman and a pilot myself, I wanted to explore the possibilities that would have been open to me during the second world war."

And not enough else was brought in. There's only so many descriptions of a pilot's job I can sit through before I start to snooze, each to their own but flying planes has never been an interest of mine. The best parts of this book were the touching ending and the fact that the narrator is delightfully unreliable (I love them, I do! Eugenides, I miss you...) but I needed more. All I really want is for a book to rouse some passion in me, whether it be excitement, sadness, anger even... I felt nothing.
Profile Image for Katie Montgomery.
294 reviews192 followers
May 27, 2012
Page 2: DAMN this book is good.
Page 25: GODDAMN this book is good.
Page 60: This may be the best WW II novel I've ever read. EVER. SUCK IT, HEMINGWAY.
Page 68: Crying.
Page 70: Laughing.
Page 113: Biting freshly manicured fingernails to smithereens DAMNIT WEIN I PAID FORTY DOLLARS FOR THESE NAILS.
Page 150: Okay, so, I have to pee, but I really don't want to have to stop reading. This could get uncomfortable.
Page 200: *THUMP* "Um, Katie, you OK up there?" "... It's cool. I just fell out of bed."
Page 233: *THUMP* "Um, did you just ...?" "... Yeah, again. Shut up."

(I read the rest of the book over the course of the evening and since I am not pro-spoiler I will not continue with the emotional roller coaster except to say that there was one.)


PS - Watch for a Maximum Shelf issue from Shelf Awareness on this title ;)
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 88 books168k followers
March 20, 2012
I’ll confess right up front that I’m not usually a big historical fiction fan. I realize this seems somewhat hypocritical of me, as I was a history major in college and adore history, but a lot of times, I find historical fiction more impenetrable than a primary source document. The characters either don’t feel like real people to me, or they feel like modern people to me. I get distracted by historical info-dumps and bored by epic scale machinations. Basically, I like my historical fiction very personal and very intimate. So when I got sent a copy of Code Name Verity, I thought, okay. I’ll read twenty pages and then I’ll give it to my sister.

But my sister has not yet gotten this book, because I don’t want to let it out of my house yet. I adored it.

1. First of all, I believe it. The people feel like real people to me, and the details feel like real details. ARE they real details? Possibly not. We all slip up on our research sometimes, but man, this stuff feels genuine. The main character’s best friend is a pilot, and that part I knew was real even before I read that Elizabeth Wein had a pilot's license. I could feel the real-life love and knowledge of flying seeping through the pages. It was grand.

2. It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve read before — certainly not in YA. Not just in genre or in subject matter, but just . . . the characters are unique and specific people and the situations they’re in are unique and specific. It feels like I looked through a tiny window into a real life, and that’s just not something you can cut and paste.

3. As with all my favorite books, it rewards the careful reader. If an author can make me gasp once, it’s likely that novel is ending up on my favorites shelf. If an author can make me gasp THREE TIMES, either the author is making me read their novel underwater or it’s really cleverly done. This one’s really cleverly done. It was a three-gasper. When was the last time I read a three gasper? I don’t remember. Maybe when I read THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST underwater . . . Now, that said, CODE NAME VERITY is not a fast read. If you go into it expecting to whip through it in an evening or even two, you’re not doing it justice. Give the characters some time to infest your heart.

4. It’s hard, but not harrowing. This is worth pointing out, because the central premise is that the narrator has been shot down over occupied France and is now being tortured for her confession. It could be awful. Sort of like BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, which I also loved, but would never read again because of how hard it was. This book, on the other hand — not only does it have so many lovely and sweeping moments, but it’s also surprisingly funny. I laughed out loud several times. Thought when I tried to explain to Lover why I was laughing, I invariably failed. LOVER: I thought you said she was being tortured? ME: Yeah, but, the Hitler line, it . . . never mind.

5. It stuck with me. This, to me, is the Holy Grail of novels. I love some novels and forget them the moment they’re out of my sight. Other novels I love and then they become part of me for days or weeks or forever. I will be reminded of them at the strangest moments. CODE NAME VERITY does more than stick with me. It haunts me. I just can’t recommend it enough. I can’t even make this recommendation funny. I love it too much.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 508 books403k followers
December 20, 2013
My final foray into World War II territory (for now, anyway) is Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, a young adult novel which really defies description, but I'll try. At its heart, Code Name Verity is the story of two young British women, Maddie and Queenie (or Julie), who undertake a secret mission behind enemy lines in Occupied France in 1943. The novel begins as a confession being written by Queenie while being held as a prisoner of the Gestapo. Clearly, her mission has gone terribly wrong. Queenie has been captured, tortured, and forced to write her story for her interrogators, and while that story is fiercely compelling in itself, the more we read, the more we begin to sense that there is more to Queenie and her mission that we are being told. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that there are games within games being played here. The whole experience for the reader parallels what the characters are feeling. Who is telling the truth? Whom can we trust? Who is an agent, a double-agent, a collaborator, a spy? Wein clearly knows her subject matter, whether it is airplanes (the author is a pilot) or life during World War II. Her characters are so real they leap off the page. Maddie and Julie embody courage, pluck and humor even in the darkest of circumstances. By turns heartrendingly sad and fiercely uplifting, Code Name Verity is the best YA book I've read in a long, long time. If you like historical fiction, or spy thrillers, or just books that constantly surprise you with, "OH MY GOD, THAT'S WHAT'S GOING ON???" moments, you should really read this. (I include both versions of the US cover, as it has changed. Which do you like best?)
Profile Image for Maggie.
431 reviews430 followers
December 4, 2013
Do you remember when The English Patient came out? Or rather, do you remember when the Seinfeld episode about The English Patient came out? (Elaine goes to see it and HATES it, and is either shunned or dragged back to the theater to rewatch because everyone else loves it. She ends up getting sent to Tunisia by her boss, J. Peterman, because the movie was filmed there. Cameo by Holly the waitress/witch from True Blood playing a waitress.)

I'm usually Elaine in these situations, so I worried a little bit after reading glowing review after glowing review of Code Name Verity. However, this book held my attention from the beginning, and I want to send all the Elaines to Ormaie for inspiration.*

Something that I see authors and filmmakers struggle with is how to portray a strong, kick-ass female who can hang with the boys and still retain her femininity. One way is to sexualize them a la Angelina Jolie, and another way is to claim they are the fiercest assassin of all time and then have them fawn over pretty dresses. See, she's tough but girly! Yes, I read Throne of Glass just before Code Name Verity. Elizabeth Wein, however, makes it look so simple with her portrayal of Queenie. Little details like neatly arranged hairpins and well maintained fingernails say so much more than a ball gown, and it keeps you within the context of the story.

Speaking of the story, it's set during World War II when most of the men are off fighting. Still, given the current state of YA, I fully expected a love triangle to somehow get shoehorned in. I did get a love story, but not the one I dreaded/expected.
"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend."
The friendship between Queenie and Maddie, two people from different backgrounds who wouldn't have met under ordinary circumstances, is one that I loved reading. It's the bond between two soldiers who contribute to the war effort in their different ways, whether it's aviation or language proficiency. The story jumps from present to past, but I loved seeing how their relationship evolved. One discussion that struck a nerve with me was when early in their friendship, they talk about their fears. In your 20s, the looming milestone is 30. When people asked me what I was going to do for 30, I would say, "Ugh, kill myself!" It's the vanity and arrogance of youth, of privilege, of safety. Queenie is the same, until that privilege is no longer in her control. She says,
"I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can't believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old."
Queenie is one of my favorite characters ever, up there with Evanjalin from Finnikin of the Rock. Her intelligence and boldness comes through the page, and Wein's writing exemplifies the principle of "show, don't tell." I loved this story of war, camaraderie, and sacrifice. I loved Queenie's mother, who left the windows open in her house in the hope that her children would be home soon, because this is also a story about faith. Queenie and Maddie have to have faith in each other and faith in the strangers on whose help they depend. This was one of my favorite books of 2012, and one I highly recommend. I have told the truth.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

This review appears on Young Adult Anonymous.

*No Elaines were harmed in the writing of this review.
Profile Image for Marie Lu.
Author 59 books133k followers
August 12, 2012
One of two books this year to make me cry--I mean, tears-pouring-down-my-face cry. Queenie and Maddie are the best character duo ever. Oh god, my heart still hurts.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
December 5, 2018
A Scottish girl, called "Verity" in a nice bit of obfuscation (is the name accurate or ironic?), is captured by the Germans in France during WWII. Apparently broken by Nazi torture, she begins to write her confession, doling out bits of information to her Nazi captors to motivate them to keep her alive and refrain from further torture. She has been spying for the Allies, so her prospects for a long life are dim.

Verity tells the tale of her involvement with the British war effort, spiced with bits of information about airplane types and airfield names to keep the Nazis at bay. But somehow her writing tells more about her developing friendship with Maddie, a British pilot who (against all rules and regulations for female pilots) flew her to France for this mission. The two girls come from different walks of life and have different talents and interests, but as they are periodically thrown together during the war they find that they are kindred souls.
It's like being in love, discovering your best friend.
This book also shows so many different faces of heroism, sometimes in heartbreaking ways. It's not an easy or light read--I think I spent the last 50 pages sniffling and wiping my eyes.

I can't say it's a perfect book. There are some slow parts where I just wanted the story to kick into a higher gear: We already read about this event from a different POV and know what happened, so why are we belaboring this part of the past? Move along! And it's non-linear, moving back and forth between the past and the present, and backtracking to tell another character's point of view. I'm all for creative storytelling but I think that particular device has been overused lately.

Not everything about the plot is plausible, so there was a little more belief-stretching than I like to have to use in a non SF/Fantasy book. And, of course, lots of wartime angst and misery, although it's handled with a fairly light hand (more older YA level than adult).

On the other hand, it's got some really intriguing twists in the plot and a lot of unexpected depth, and some great writing. It's well worth your time; just don't read it when you want something light and fun. There's humor and joy in it, but also great pain. It moved me, and it will stick with me.

Initial post: I just finished this story of two friends, a British woman and a Scottish one, helping with the WWII effort. I'm a quivering bundle of goo; I don't think I can be objective about this book for a day or two. There were a few slow parts and more pain and angst than I usually like in my fiction, but some really wonderful parts to it as well. I'm going to call it 4 stars for now and see how it settles.
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
603 reviews738 followers
July 10, 2019

“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

This is distressing. I am very distraught. I did not like this book as much as I hoped and it breaks my heart. I'm aware that we can't love every book we read and you may think it a tad dramatic of me to say this but WWII historical fiction is a (sub) genre that I've rarely been let down by. Ever.

This had all the makings of a potential favourite yet somehow missed the mark. I'm still reeling from it.
Set in the turmoil of the Second World War, the book follows the fate of two young British women: Maddie, a modest pilot, and Julie, an aristocratic Scotswoman turned spy. I loved the story just not the way in which it was told.

It took me so long, SO LONG to get into the book and I almost I considered giving up completely – mainly because I struggled to follow what was going on, and was confused by all the plane jargon, coded abbreviations, jumping between different time periods, and rambling writing style. it all felt a bit haphazard.

There were so many things I couldn't understand like Julie’s determination to bargain for extra time to finish her story when it would just prolong her suffering, but my biggest source of confusion was why the Germans were so keen for her to write it, as it contained very little information on the British War Effort that would actually be of any use to them.
I was frustrated by how difficult it was to grasp why certain things were happening, such as the interview with an American journalist, or even why Maddie and Julie spent a whole day trying to cycle to a café in the rain.

The second half of the story shed so much light on almost all of the puzzles and I got more into the story as the book went on.
Needless to say, I was absolutely unprepared for the ending. That damned shocking ending which felt like a punch in the throat. It was such an unfair twist that I can’t, for the life of me, get it out of my head. Still.

As much as I enjoyed the latter half, I wish I love the book as a whole because I feel like I've missed out on certain things that would have enhanced my reading experience more.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,889 followers
March 27, 2012
Reviewing this book feels much like walking through a minefield. (Not that I know what that feels like, but I can imagine, you know.) On the one hand, I can’t reveal too much of the plot. I can’t reveal almost anything, really, lest I ruin the experience for you guys. On the other hand, I have to write just enough to make you want to pick this book up because it’s one you don’t want to miss. Trust me. I suppose I could just point you to Maggie Stiefvater’s wonderful review and leave it to her to convince you, but I’m not that much of a coward. *coughs* I just did that! *coughs*

So here goes nothing…

I don’t normally read historical fiction unless it’s highly recommended. Code Name Verity was, directly or indirectly, recommended to me by two of my trusted friends, Chachic and Jo, and, as I already mentioned, my favorite young adult author Maggie Stiefvater. And of course they were right.

Code Name Verity is a story about two best friends, Maddie and Queenie, fighting in World War II. They probably never would have met in peacetime, as they come from entirely different circles of society: Queenie is Scottish royalty who grew up in a castle, while Maddie is a bike shop owner’s granddaughter. That didn’t stop them from becoming best friends while serving together in WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), and staying close even when the war took them in different directions.
All Maddie ever wanted was to fly airplanes. She was in training before the war and when the war started, she waited patiently for them to accept female pilots, which eventually they did. Queenie’s talents lie elsewhere: she is fluent in both German and French and able to momentarily slip into any role, be herself one second, and someone entirely different the next. Although these two have very little in common on the surface, deep down they are both incredibly strong, intelligent and compassionate women.

But for me, the most fascinating character was Queenie’s capturer, Hauptsturmfürer von Linden. He starts as pure evil, of course, but as the story progresses, we are offered small details of his life that give him an entirely different face, one that is complex and multi-layered and that causes the reader to be just as conflicted as Queenie.
I don’t know what I expected, but he just looked like anybody - like the sort of chap who would come into the shop and buy a motorbike for his lad’s 16th birthday – like your headmaster.

Our story starts when Queenie gets captured by the Gestapo in France. Upon breaking her with torture and turning her into a collaborator, von Linden allows her to write down the events that led her to his cruel hands, and her written testimony is what we are given.

The narrative itself takes some getting used to. Queenie tells her present story in first person, but switches to third person and focuses on Maddie every time she talks about the past. It was a little strange at first, having the narrator talk about herself in third person, but I soon realized that it was an excellent way for Wein to help her readers adapt to constant alternations between the past and the present.

Every once in a while you know that you’ve stumbled upon a classic. Code Name Verity might have been published in 2012, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will endure the test of time. It has the weight (although not quite the genius) of The Book Thief. I'm sure it will receive awards and critical acclaim.

Also posted at The Nocturnal Library
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews489 followers
March 8, 2013
this book.

everyone on goodreads, stymied by the impossible task of saying anything about what happens in this book without giving away the entirety of it, sputters and stutters and eventually says, READ IT. read it read it read it readit readit readitreaditreadit PLEASE READ IT

there's moira's lovely review but most of it is blacked out. read it for the enthusiasm and sense of wonderment. come back to it after you've read the book and click the spoiler link so you can have the book explained to you in case you missed something (you won't have missed anything).

ten things about this book

1. it's like nothing i've ever read.

2. it's about war, torture, weapons, airplanes, piloting, motorcycles, and lots of mechanical things and it's entirely staffed by women.

3. you won't understand how on earth elizabeth wein could possibly have come up with something like this and you will worship her with abandon until you read the author's note at the end (don't read it until you finish!), at which point you will still worship her but at least you will have a sense of how she came up with this.

4. you won't know this is the reason, but the fact that this is a story of women that's also a story of war, torture, weapons, airplanes, piloting, motorcycles, and lots of mechanical things will keep you off balance the whole time. this is not what books with women characters look like. it doesn't compute.

5. it's genius plotting and genius writing and genius heart.

6. it's about women loving each other fiercely with a love you wish you had or had had or could have right now because you need it.

7. it's about pain and hardship but it's incredibly tender.

8. it sings.

9. it's a slow read. read it slowly. as maggie stiefvater says, "give the characters some time to infest your heart."

10. it's not ya, or i don't understand the ya category at all. here's my theory: someone decided it was ya because it's about young (not teen: young) women (instead of, you know, men). or because EW writes ya. or because there are no profanities, no sex, and no drugs. or all of the above.

11. if historical fiction bores you, get over it, this one time (i'm not crazy about it either, in fact i avoid it like the plague).

12. thank you, elizabeth wein, you should have gotten first prize.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
May 12, 2020
A note: This review is going to be a bit vague because I really, really, reallyreally don’t want to spoil this book for anyone. Because oh my gosh….

A note on the note: This review really is going to be vague unlike all my other ‘vague’ reviews which go on for about a year.

The first thing I did after I finished reading this book was to pick up my phone and text my best friend, who I have known since I was eleven and has been there through every single one of my problems and ill-advised fringes, and tell her that I loved her.

The second thing I did after I finished reading this book was flip back to the beginning and start reading it again.

I don’t mind admitting that it took me and this book a while to really get going.. The way this book was written with all the capital letters bothered me and the changing in perspectives and everything really confused me.
It took me a good 100 pages to get into but seeing as this book is over 400 pages long; that was absolutely fine.
And after those first 100 pages, I learnt the truth and that is: This book is fantastic.
I knew I’d love it when I was noseying at the wonderful Chachic’s status updates and then I read the synopsis.

Spies? Pilots? Codes? Secrets? History? Best friends? Mancunians?!
These are a few of my favourite things…

I loved the setting. I loved the plot. I loved the era.
And the twists absolutely threw me (although, I did have the smallest of small inklings of one thing but that’s only because I have a clever dad who eats history books for breakfast and I accidentally asked a question that got made me put a few things together…)
The twist and the ending…. I just can’t even think about them without jibbering.

Code Name Verity is The Usual Suspects of YA literature.

Like I said above, the second thing I did after I finished reading this book was to go back to the beginning and read over certain parts again. I know that this book will be one of those books that will get better and better every time I read it.
I loved Verity. I loved Maddie.
They were real girls.
They laugh, they cry, they flirt with boys, they gossip, they’re loyal, they fly planes, they can land planes, they can speak different languages, they can crack codes, they can do the unthinkable, they do the right thing.
I loved that, with Maddie and Verity, Ms Wein showed that you can be strong, you can be brave, you can be good at what you do, you can be the best at what you do and you can do all this without sacrificing your femininity and/or becoming a passive-aggressive “message”. There was never a sense that these ladies did what they did in a “Look! Look! We can do it too. We’re just as good as boys!” and because they had something to prove.
They were such rich and beautiful characters and I loved, loved, loved them both so dearly.

And, anyway, boys didn’t even get a look in. They wouldn’t be able to keep up with any of the girls in this book.


The phrase “Careless talk costs lives” is mentioned frequently in this book and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this poster:


Also, the fact that that I own that very poster [bought from the Imperial War Museum North, I’ve still not been to the London one, or the Churchill War Rooms, yet… one day :) ] and it is hanging up on my bedroom wall….that helped too.

So that’s it.
That’s my review.
It doesn’t do this book justice in the slightest but it’s the best that I can do.

Arm yourself with tissues, read this book, prepare to be amazed and always fly high.

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 7, 2012
I am quite surprised this novel got as many 5-star reviews as it did, because this book requires its reader to have a fair amount of interest in piloting, even before he/she can start appreciating the writing itself. In short, the things that Code Name Verity is about - pilots, planes, radios, engineering, war - are the things I evidently have no interest in. Or, alternatively, it's written in a not very engaging way. Surprised this is so well received, very surprised.
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
April 3, 2020
i loved this book, don't get me wrong. it has great characters and is well-researched and detailed and every scene comes alive and pops with tension and it also has all that slippery writing that i really appreciate. but how fans are practically burning effigies of veronica roth for the feels she made them feel or whatever, while this book is Beloved By All is beyond me. this book definitely has more brutal feels.

but—a great book, whose secrets will not be spoilt by me with a more detailed review; careless talk costs lives and all...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
488 reviews1,370 followers
March 7, 2016
This is ultimately a story of friendship, love and loyalty. Two secret agents whom have become best friends. One an interrogator, Verity; the other, a pilot, Kittyhawk. Their mission to German occupied France goes awry and Kittyhawk is forced to make a crash landing and Verity has to parachute out. They become separated. The 1st half of the story is told by Verity who has been captured by the Nazis and is armed with a pencil and paper forced to disclose codes. What becomes her ‘dissertation of treason’ is a narrative of how the 2 friends met and the value of that friendship. The 2nd half of the story is told by Kittyhawk and her own ordeal as she was hidden by the french resistance and sought information that Verity was still alive.
What an amazing story - heartbreaking and emotional, characters so believable it’s difficult to believe this is a work of fiction. Wein weaves a powerful WWII story about war, friendship and the extremes one will go to for another.
Thank you, Thank you Angela M, my GR friend, who recommended I get to this right away! I’m so glad I did. This one is a 5 ★.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews932 followers
June 22, 2017
DNF @ 50%

Well the main issue is that this is boring the shit out of me. I meant to put this on my DNF shelf ages ago but I couldn't even be bothered to do that much because that is how bored I was.

I doubt I'll ever pick this up in the future but never say never.
Profile Image for Maciek.
562 reviews3,321 followers
February 4, 2014
It takes a lot to impress me in a novel about World War 2, which is the reason why I wasn't mad about this book like 99& of those who read it. Perhaps it is the difference in experiences that divide me and them - I grew up in a country where the war has left a definite mark, and where people still remember it and mourn its victims. You can still find old houses with bullet holes, and every other street has a memorial plague remembering dozens of underground resistance and innocent civilians slaughtered by the Nazis. People leave flowers and candles under these signs; the memory is very much still with us and quite probably will never leave.

What can literature tell us about the war which hasn't already been said? Do we need novels about it when there is an abundance of historical accounts, both written and visual? Perhaps I am being unfairly harsh towards novels such as Code Name Verity - after all, it is only a story. I've enjoyed stories set during the war, and written by those who haven't experienced it - such as David Benioff's excellent City of Thieves, which is about two Russian boys who had to perform an impossible task, set during the siege of Leningrad. I thought that it was a rip-roaring yarn, which mixed comedy with drama brilliantly, and while it's obviously fiction it respected both the setting and the events described. So, why was I disappointed in Verity?

Perhaps because it's not really a novel about the war; in the afterword, the author admits that the novel started as a portrait of an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, and that since she is also a pilot she wanted to explore the possibilities that would be open for her during the period. There is a major focus on aviation in this book: technical details of the planes, details of a pilot's job, etc. As much as I tried to care, I could only take a little of this trivia before beginning to lose my interest.

Then there's the story itself, which concerns two female friends who both serve in the British army: one is a pilot, and the other is a spy. The novel begins with a believable situation: the plane carrying the spy crashes in occupied France, and she is soon captured by the Germans. What follows up, however, quickly becomes unbelievable - essentially, the spy is allowed to write her memoirs as a form of confession to the Nazis, and is allowed to indulge in her personal stories. This Nazi captain is presented as a sophisticated lover of literature (with a touch of cold indifference for the fates of his prisoners thrown in), who allows our spy to essentially write a novel about herself with just a few relevant facts thrown in - she does a pretty good job at keeping a scornful and feisty tone for someone who is supposed to be suffering from direct and indirect torture on a daily basis. The spy also essentially admits to be a con artist and pretend to remember in her notes, which somehow doesn't bother the morally ambiguous villain. The whole plot is staged for the final "twist", but by that time I was so disinterested in both the story and its characters that I long stopped to care.

There are a few interesting bits here - a scene where a German pilot who has accidentally crossed the channel is tricked by the British to believe that he's still in occupied France, and convinced to land in their base is suspenseful and well-written. But I simply never bought into the whole rest of the story, which was just too made up to allow me suspend my disbelief. Instead of reading about two fictional English girls and their adventures in aviation during the war, I'd recommend potential readers to read about the Night Witches - an actual, all female regime of the Soviet Air Forces. These women developed a technique of descending low and turning off their engines and silently gliding towards the drop point, with only wind noises to give them away. The Germans nicknamed them "Night Witches" because they likened the noises to the sound made by broomsticks; due to the weight of the bomb and low altitude, the pilots carried no parachutes. This is an actual, true story worth reading about, and perhaps one day someone will turn it into believable fiction.

Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.7k followers
April 7, 2018
this was a wonderful story about friendship, courage, and everything in between. and while i cant say this was one of my favourite WWII stories ive read, it also wasnt like anything i have read before. the story is told in a letter/note format, and i think that is what helped make the story feel authentic and genuine. my only complaint is that it talked about planes wayyy too much, but im happy i picked this up!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,228 reviews2,060 followers
August 24, 2016
It took me a while to get around to this book. I knew lots of people loved it but World War 2 is not my favourite historical period to read about, especially yet another YA book set at that time. Now I wish I had read it much sooner - it is a beautiful story about amazing characters and it leaves you at the end with a major lump in the throat and quite a few soggy tissues.
I was very taken too with the way the author chose to tell the tale, first one character telling events her way and then the other with her different angle. The culmination of course was heart breaking but honest. We all love happy endings but there were not many of them in that war.
What a great book! I am going to need a little breathing space before I start my next.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,111 reviews2,668 followers
August 24, 2018
WWII brought together two young women on the shores of England – Maddie of Manchester and Queenie of Scotland. Without thought, they became best friends while training and working as radio operators. Maddie was a fresh, young pilot and when she was flying Queenie into France, trouble struck. Suddenly they were separated – Queenie was captured by the Gestapo and feared for her life.

Writing her account of why she was in France; delivering coded secrets; laying bare her thoughts – Queenie did all those things, though never willingly. Meanwhile Maddie had a different story to tell. Queenie was code name Verity; Maddie was code name Kittyhawk. Those two young women, with families at home – would they ever see the shores of England again?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein was a gutsy, heart wrenching narration, both by Queenie and Maddie. The horrors of war; the lightheartedness they kept up before leaving England to take away the fears; the need to keep busy to stop thinking – all culminates in an exceptionally interesting and gripping historical novel which I enjoyed. Recommended.
Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
October 28, 2012
Wow, I'm still pretty gutted hours after finishing it. I don't really know if I can write a coherent review here; I might try later. I mainly want to go out and press this on complete strangers. Read it, now, and for GOD'S SAKE don't let anyone spoil you about any aspect of the plot. There are no kidding about four or five major plot twists, with no cheating -- they're all carefully foreshadowed and clues are dropped (there's even an in-character reference to this right at the beginning!) and it's just amazing.

If it doesn't sound too completely off, this book is almost more like what I wanted Blackout/All Clear to be -- not time travel and all that of course, but the idea of the smallest action having reverberations through time, of "small" daily heroism being just as good as great big theatrical famous heroism, or when those two kinds of heroism even come together and are the same thing -- the "miracle of the little ships" at Dunkirk for Willis, and....well here I have the same problem as everyone else, that you can't talk about specific events in this book because that will really spoil the reading experience.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
February 10, 2012
1943, England and France. Maddie and her best friend Queenie (“Verity”) are a sensational team, a pair of unlikely best friends. One: an English commoner, a pilot for the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) with a passion for flying and a penchant for mechanics. Two: a Scottish aristocrat, a spy with a way with words, working with the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Both: doing their part for the British War Effort.

No. No, no, no. Wait a minute. I am doing this wrong. Let me start again.

It starts with a confession: “I AM A COWARD”. And it comes from a female spy captured by the Gestapo in France. Under torture, she caved in and spat out codes and airfields locations. She will do anything, anything to avoid being interrogated again by SS von Linden and this means coughing up everything she knows about the British War Effort. But her story starts with Maddie, the pilot who brought her here and in telling Maddie’ story – and eventually her own – she hopes to buy a few more weeks of life. Any life is better than no life even if she knows she will be killed in the end. She does it for clothes – of all things – and because she can’t cope. She is the worst of all people in time of war: a collaborator.

Her story mixes first person and third person narratives. The first comes with the immediate horror, the guilt, the fear, the trapped-in -a–cell-with-her-torturers-observing-her, no food, no sleep, her ankles tightly bound to the chair, an iron rail tied against her spine and the certainty that her best friend is dead and soon so will she be.

The latter is her best friend’s Maddie’s story and how she became a pilot with the ATA, how they met, how they became friends and everything about their friendship including who they met and how they became part of the War Effort which involve some of the secrets the Nazis are not supposed to know.

And so, the Scottish spy tells the truth.

If I were writing this review on paper it would be smeared all over because of my tears. I haven’t stopped crying since I finished reading this book a few hours ago.

This is an amazing story and it feels like it was written especially for me. It features so many of my favourite things: it is an epistolary novel and I love them. I also happen to love books with unreliable narrators and there is always a degree of unreliability when it comes to the narrator of an epistolary novel but a spy narrating a story under duress? That has got to be the most elemental of unreliable narrators and as such, how much of her confession is really the truth?

All of it? Parts of it? None of it?

When she describes her torture, her bruises, her broken heart, her fear and her guilt, I believe she is telling the truth with all my heart. I believe her and I understand her. I expect I would crumble under torture and no one can ever convince me that a person who caves in under torture is a spineless coward. On the other side of the spectrum, I don’t want her to be telling the truth either. Such a bright, effusive, clever young woman, hand-picked to be a spy? I want her to be brave – like the French girl next door to her who is tortured every single day and hasn’t said a word. Most of all, I just really want her to be cleverer than the horrible people interrogating her. But how much of that is an impossible expectation based on unfair standards? This is a great source of conflict and this book offers a great opportunity for an examination of bravery, cowardice and patriotism. How impacting is this line?

“The warmth and dignity of my flannel skirt and woolly jumper are worth far more to me now than patriotism or integrity.”

On top of this, this is also a book about writing (because Verity is in effect writing a novel when she is writing her confession), about the love for reading, about the Second World War, the roles women could play at the time and also: PERIL, SUSPENCE AND SPIES!! It is all SO CLEVER, it actually reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief’s books. That is all I am going to say on the subject because saying more is to spoil the story and this to me, would be unforgivable.

Above all though, Code Name Verity is about its two main characters, two incredible women (I LOVE them. I.LOVE.THEM) and the friendship they had – they are indeed sensational and I wish I could tell you how or why but I can’t really tell you more about Verity without stealing her thunder. This too, would be unforgivable. It also features one of the best lines about friendship I have ever read, a line that is so simple and so spot on and so true when it came to these two characters, it made me start crying from that moment on:

“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

Isn’t it just?

Granted that there was a degree of suspension of disbelief required: I mean, would the Gestapo be so patient with the manner that “Verity” has chosen to write her confession? At times, I also felt the language was perhaps too modern…Do I really care about those? No, I don’t. When a story is this good, the characters so vivid you wish they were real people, the writing so gripping you feel like your heart is being torn out of your chest? That’s the stuff that reminds me how wonderful reading can be.

Code Name Verity is a sensational book. Hands down my favourite read so far this year and already on my top 10 of 2012.

One last thing: I feel I need to pass on the kind advice I received before I started reading it. If you decide to read this book, keep a box of tissues at hand. There will be tears, and they will be sad ones. But it’s worth it, it is SO worth it.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
March 25, 2020
When Caitlin from my local bookstore recommended Code Name Verity to me (in the category of ‘historical fiction + kinda gay), she told me that 1) I would be obsessed, and 2) I would want to reread this book as soon as I finished it. She was right about both.

I read this book in the range from 1:00am to 4:00am, first of all. I don’t even remember the last time I needed to finish a book so bad. I needed to find out what happened!! How was it all going to go down? I had guesses, sure, but I didn’t know! I needed to see them escape.

That is because there is so much excellent foreshadowing in this book.


Anyway. It is not just the setup and payoff that I loved about this book. I had so many feelings about this character. I love that Queenie’s narrative voice is so distinct; that she’s so lighthearted at times, and it takes longer to see her further sides. She's a really dynamic character. Maddie is also really interesting, and I loved getting invested in her. More importantly, the relationship between the two of them is really wonderful and hit me hard. Physically I’m here but emotionally I’m typing a long essay about how much they love each other.

LONG ESSAY HERE: “finding your best friend is a bit like falling in love” really got dropped as an actual line in this book. sure! yeah absolutely! or maybe you just like girls (as Julie apparently does! canonically!) o for it to be the 1950s and i have a best friend who makes me feel like im falling in love.

The final note: I was so so upset by the ending of this book I kept expecting a miracle to have happened. I loved it. It made me cry. It will probably make you cry too. I don't know. Read it and let me know.

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Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,204 followers
July 3, 2014
I'm an emotional, sentimental, and idealistic reader. Not in the sense that I want happy endings all the time because most of the books I love are pretty sad and are filled with a lot of loss. In fact many of my favorite books are gut wrenching and have broken my heart. I'm idealistic because I want to read books that are 4 & 5 star reads all of the time. I want to love a book not just like it . I want a book to really get to me in some way. I have to admit that I was not expecting this book to get to me like it did.

It's about war, and two gutsy women, one a spy and one a pilot and about a friendship that will last the ages because many years from now someone will read this book and it will get to them also. If you want more details on the story, check out the book's description on Goodreads. I don't think it's necessary for me to repeat that here.

What I can say is that while I knew I was reading a work of fiction, there was something that made Julia and Maddie and their story so real. I felt as if all of it really happened . When I read the author's "debriefing" at the end of the book, I discovered that this story in some ways could have happened and that there were probably bold, courageous women who fought the war like Julia and Maddie, with code names something other than Verity and Kittyhawk.

Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews654 followers
May 13, 2014

There have been a couple of negative reviews which have made me want to stab myself in the eyes in frustration. WERE THEY NOT THINKING WHEN THEY READ THIS BOOK, maybe watching tv at the same time or maybe they were TEXTING, TWITTER??? Instances used as the basis for this novel actually happened, read the author's notes, have a look at some of the references!

Some time later and a lot calmer, I write...

"I closed this book feeling I'd met real people that I'd never forget. Code Name Verity's characters don't just stick with me - they haunt me." New York Times best-selling author, Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater, I am with you - the characters in Code Name Verity will stay with me for a long, long time. For me, this novel was hauntingly real, devastatingly heroic and absolutely unforgettable. I urge everyone, no matter your age or gender, to read this novel. most highly recommended 5★
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,129 reviews1,202 followers
August 4, 2016
This is one of those books that's almost impossible to talk about without revealing plot elements, and that's most enjoyable to discover as you go. So, if you think you'd like a young-adult novel starring two women--one a pilot, one an intelligence officer--in WWII, and you don't like spoilers, you should probably avoid all reviews (mine included) and just read it.

Now for the review.

Overall, Code Name Verity is an enjoyable book. The story is gripping, with tension and danger throughout--naturally enough, as one of the protagonists spends the book as a Nazi prisoner. The characters are fairly vivid, and I enjoyed reading about a pair of tough, capable women. I was unaware of the role of women pilots in England's Air Transport Auxiliary during the war, and so especially enjoyed reading about Maddie's advancement as a pilot. The author, a pilot herself, does a great job of communicating her love of flight, and her clear knowledge of planes adds verisimilitude. Wartime England and occupied France are both brought to life, and the writing style is adequate without drawing attention to itself.

Two problems then. First, I liked the idea of the main characters' friendship better than its depiction; they seem to leap right from getting acquainted to undying sisterhood, with readers missing a step somewhere along the way.

Second, there are the myriad problems with the epistolary format. The first 2/3 or so of the book is supposed to be written by Julie, the captured intelligence officer, as a "confession" for her captors. Unreliable narrators are fun and this keeps the reader guessing. But for the premise to work, we must believe that 1) the Nazi captain is such a lover of literature that he doesn't mind that his prisoner's "confession" is actually a novel-length narrative weaving together her own day-to-day life as a prisoner and her best friend's wartime experiences, and 2) despite that, he's too dense to realize that she's not telling the truth--even though the third sentence of her account is "I have always been good at pretending," even though she paints herself as a gutsy con artist throughout and admits to making up details. That's a lot to swallow. I'd figured out much of what Julie was hiding halfway through her narrative--for instance, that she liked the translator much more than she let on--and had a hard time believing someone whose job is getting the truth out of prisoners wouldn't have figured her out too. Wein just does not handle well the tension between an author's need to give hints to the reader of what's really going on, and Julie's need to write a completely convincing document. Interspersing Julie's story with other documents could have arrived at the same result without making both her and her captors look stupid.

Maddie narrates the last third, and the premise here doesn't make much sense either--she writes most of it in hiding in France, where if found her writing would endanger not only her but the family sheltering her. The two characters' voices sound alike, and the voice doesn't quite fit either of them: too refined for Maddie the working-class mechanic, not refined enough for the ultra-privileged Julie, and too young for either. (Their voice reminded me of Cassandra Mortmain in I Capture the Castle, and she isn't much like either of them.) In both cases their styles are also too novelistic to be plausible--complete with dialogue, scenes, etc.

There are some plot details, too, that don't add up. But, in the end, Code Name Verity is a competent book that I would have enjoyed much more at age 14 than as an adult. It's very young-adult, in everything from pacing to plot elements to the characters' voices, and I wonder why Wein chose that route, given that the protagonists are women in their 20s whose stories would suit an adult book just fine (despite that, they're rather jarringly referred to as "girls" throughout, perhaps to make them seem closer to the intended audience's age).

So, do I recommend the book? Maybe. Despite the glowing reviews, I found nothing mindblowing about it. But if you typically enjoy YA and are willing to engage in a lot of suspension of disbelief around the premise, chances are you'll love it.
Profile Image for Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf).
445 reviews286 followers
September 2, 2015
I took a bit of a risk I think, my very first audio book AND Historical fiction... My most detested of all genres... But I enjoyed it! Just didn't LOVE it like so many others seem to have done.

The story is written (or told in this case) by two best friends set in World War 2. The first part of the novel is written by Queenie who is a prisoner of war, caught in France by the gestapo. She is made to write an account of why she is in German occupied France, and of her friendship with Maddie, who was flying the plane that brought her into France. The second part of the book is Maddie's version of events. The first part of the novel written by Queenie is obviously written under duress, and although entertaining, it is not till the second part that it all comes together and the whole truth is revealed.

It was a good book. Extremely well written. The characters were written flawlessly and the research that must have gone into this, especially the planes and navigation parts, was amazingly thorough!

The audio version itself was impressive. The beautiful Scottish accent of the first narrator was wonderful. I really enjoyed the audio version. I don't think if i read the written version of this book, i would have enjoyed it quite so much. I enjoyed the audio version because I could do other things. Unfortunately I am yet to master housework and reading at the same time so this allows me to do just that. Its funny, when I read a book I can't remember much about where I was when I read it. With this audio version I can remember the EXACT moment of the most pivotal shocking moment of the book - I was unloading the dishwasher and nearly dropped a plate!

I really enjoyed how the story came together with the second narrator. Everything started to make more sense and it was extremely interesting. Overall though there were quite a few slower parts but then something really interesting would happen to peak my interest again.

It took me a while to get used to listening to a book being read for me. I haven't been read to since I was a child so it was a bit difficult for me to stick with it at first. But as the story started to flow I was all in.

I would have liked a little bit of romance. I saw potential there, just to throw a bit in, but nothing really happened. I understand though it was hardly a romantic setting!

Overall I really enjoyed it. However I as I said, I didn't LOVE it. But that's not the books fault! Its all me! Its still the highest rating I've ever given a historical fiction before.

Between 3.5 and 4 Stars

For more reviews visit my blog

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Profile Image for Christine.
6,619 reviews480 followers
July 9, 2016
Re-read for July 2016 UC Book Club selection

It is pleasure to know that some books stay as good as you remember. Now, if you need me I will be the crying mess in the corner that is cursing Hollywood that this hasn't been filmed yet.

Old Review
There is something lacking in war stories that make it to television. We have great battle epics, such as appear on HBO, and we have the rescue stories that appear everywhere. Understandably the battle epics focus on men; what women appear are wives, girlfriends, mothers, nurses, victims. The rescue stories tend to focus more on women rescuers, possibly to make up for the lack of women in the battle stories. I don’t know. And this is true even when the film is not about WW II. Look at Birdsong, War Horse, Cold Mountain.

Yet, women did fight in most, if not all, of the wars. Whether it was as last line of defense, disguised as a man, as spies, in factories, as couriers, as pilots, tank drivers, or snipers; women were fighting in battle long before Congress debated whether or not it should be allowed.
I’m not sure why this gets ignored. Perhaps because the unknown stories outweigh the known ones. Perhaps because it disrupts our view of motherhood. Perhaps because being a wireless operator is less glorious than being a fighter pilot. Maybe because the women didn’t want to talk about it. But it’s been known for awhile. Shoot, The Longest Day has a woman Resistance member.
Another thing that gets downplayed or ignored is female friendship, which always takes second seat to a romance or, more often, fighting over a man. One woman is always superior, better, than the other.

So it is refreshing to read something like this book.

I swear if this book doesn’t win some award, I’ll thump someone. I’ll break legs. I’ll hunt awards committees down. I’m tired of watching good authors get passed over for stupid reasons.

Now the bookstores will tell you this book is Young Adult. That is a lie. It is a historical novel for anyone (though parents should be warned there is torture).

The book relates the experiences of Maddie and Queenie, two young women who joined various British divisions, Aircraft Aux and SOE, during WW II. It starts with Queenie writing as she is imprisoned in occupied France. She has been picked up because she looked the wrong way when crossing the street. The book is told, largely, though first person (the narrative does switch, but the voices are so different), and is a book about friendship as well as a person’s ability to do. The focus is mainly on women, though the men are not depicted as evil or misogynistic. It is such a layered and tight book, and I can’t say why because I don’t want to spoil it. If you are looking for a war torn romance, this isn’t it (a romance is hinted at).

But this book. This is a great book. From the first sentence, you are brought in. The characters, in particular Maddie and Queenie, are so real. It is like they are there before. The novel is also, in some ways, a rebuke to those stupid cat fighting television shows because the women help themselves here.

Just read it. Okay.

P.S. I’ve looked over the negative reviews, and some people do have a point. I will say, however, what they complain about is explained in the second half of the book (and Queenie is tortured for a variety of reasons even as she is writing, though this might have been corrected post ARC).
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