Maja (The Nocturnal Library)'s Reviews > Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
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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.

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Reading Progress

March 5, 2012 – Shelved
March 20, 2012 – Started Reading
March 25, 2012 –
49.0% ""A whore, we've established that, filthy, it goes without saying, but whatever else the hell I am, I AM NOT ENGLISH.""
March 26, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-17)

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HєllyBєlly I ordered this now, on the strength of your trusted endorsement! ;-)

message 16: by Flannery (new)

Flannery Jo sent me a copy of this one but I'd read from either hers or Chachic's review that it made them cry and I'm not in the mood for that right at the moment. Is this true?

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) I'm very happy to hear that! I'll definitely reread it myself at least once or twice in the future. I guess that says enough. :)

message 14: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo :-D
Wonderful review, Maja.
I'm so glad you loved it!

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Flannery wrote: "Jo sent me a copy of this one but I'd read from either hers or Chachic's review that it made them cry and I'm not in the mood for that right at the moment. Is this true?"

Well, I did cry, but it was really a story about the friendship of two incredibly strong women, so I felt very good about it in the end.

Thanks so much, Jo. :)

message 12: by Maja (The Nocturnal Library) (last edited Mar 26, 2012 02:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Jo (view spoiler)

Chachic Yay Maja, so glad to see this on your favorites shelf. :) Isn't it great that it's about girls who are best friends instead of the usual love story in YA? (view spoiler)

Flann, it did make me cry but in a good way (if that makes sense). Kind of like how Marchetta's novels are emotional reads but you like feeling that way about the characters.

message 10: by Shirley (new) - added it

Shirley Marr Wow, I am seriously impressed by this review Maja.

"It has the weight (although not quite the genius) of The Book Thief. I'm sure it will receive awards and critical acclaim."

Really?? Wow.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Chachic, I really hope so (view spoiler)

Shirley, it's an unfair comparison, I admit it. It's a lot to live up to. But this is definitely going to be a classic and it is quite powerful.

Chachic Maja, me too! (view spoiler) Are you planning to read EWein's other books?

Shirley, I hope you enjoy reading Code Name Verity! :)

message 7: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo Sorry Maja, I had no idea you asked me a question!
But yes, 100% yes. I hope so too.
And Chachic, your latest spoiler? ♥ Sigh. Gorgeous.

message 6: by Lamia (new) - added it

Lamia Another awesome review, Maja :) I haven't had many good experiences with historical fiction in the past, but this one sounds really interesting. Is it a stand-alone?

message 5: by Roza (new) - added it

Roza Dimka So errm is there any kind of romance in this book. Sorry couldn't help asking that :D
Love your review.

Emily @Roza…No, there really isn't any romance in this book. There is a scene where Maddie kisses Queenie's forehead but that's more for comfort than anything.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Hints of one, toward the end, though, Roza.

R.S. Carter I just finished. "Re-Read Quality Good". I'm still emotionally traumatized.

KelliNoel I’ve been struggling through this read but I keep coming back to your review. It motivates me to keep going. It’s like no other book I’ve read.

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