Maggie Stiefvater's Reviews > Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
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's review
Mar 20, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: young-adult, recommended

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 20, 2012 – Shelved
March 20, 2012 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 20, 2012 – Finished Reading
November 7, 2013 – Shelved as: recommended

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Jessica (BlogEared Books) can't wait- i just got a copy yesterday!!!

Ange (Libby Blog) Schmelzer Great review! I'm certainly going to try it/recommend it now.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow that sounds really good. Have you read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (i think that's how you spell her last name) it was absolutely amazing and also historical fiction about the French Revolution. I absolutely adored it.

Janet Flora Corso I'v never heard of this book but can't wait to read it now! I do love historical fiction, but only if it feels accurate and I can really learn something from it.

Jessica (Step Into Fiction) I totally agree about how it's not a quick read, at all. It took me awhile to read this but it wasn't bad. I'm used to quick, fun reads - this was totally different but just as good! It definitely had a realistic feel to it and it definitely broke my heart a few times. I actually decided to read it after reading this review (or skimming it since I don't like to read 'reviews' before I read a book) so thank you! I'm glad I read this! :)

message 6: by Patty (new)

Patty I loved Code Name Verity too. I am surprised it wasn't published as an adult novel as the characters were adults and the subject matter rather mature. Not many students in my high school would be attracted to this book, but a couple of adults have already read it. It reminded me of Tamar, another historical WWII novel labeled YA with broader appeal to adults.

Jamie "historical info-dumps" are exactly what makes me hate historical fiction too! This one definitely rises way way above that!

Malissa This is one of my favorite books of the year (TRB is another btw), and I've been trying to convince my friend to bump it up her list. She's not much for historical fiction either. So I sent her the link to your review, and I think that did it. You describe it so much better than I've been able too! Guess that's why your an award winning author and all :) Great review and thanks!

Jessica (BlogEared Books) what is TRB?

Malissa Oh. Sorry! I sometimes get carried away with abbreviation. Especially when typing on my phone ... The Raven Boys.

Rhiannon Ryder Three gasper. That was me as well. The reveals were spectacular, and the characters so exceptionally real I was crushed to find out they weren't based on anyone or any relationship that Wein knew or had read about. I still have troubles wrapping my head around this.

Elaine I don't know what I expected when I started Verity. It's an award winner so it's an obligatory read. I just finished Marcelo in the Real World so I'm already exhausted from intimate emotion. And now this. I'm laughing, but it hurts.

message 13: by lola (new) - rated it 5 stars

lola BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is very historically inaccurate. Soviet soldiers did not kidnap 14 year old girls and send them to labor camps, the whole premise just doesn't even make sense.

Priscilla This perfectly describes how i feel about this book.

message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin Woo I love, love, love your line about the "three gasper." That was totally me as well. Maybe I'm just a naturally gullible person, but I didn't see so many of the plot twists coming. Then I went back and reread it (and reread it) and I kept thinking, "Oh, I see what she did there!" I also agree with what you said about Between Shades of Gray – the way Verity (Queenie? Julie? I never know what to call her) manages to keep such dry humor throughout her confession is, well, sensational, and it makes it such a fun read despite the fact that it's also incredibly heartbreaking.

message 16: by Lois (new) - added it

Lois You have to read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, too - it's just one of those books that sticks with you forever and is, to date, the only book to make me cry. Ever. It's phenomenal.

Linda I'm a little over halfway done, still haven't reached any "gasp" moments, but I already know that this book is going to end up in my Favorites folder when I'm through. I'm having to drag myself away from it periodically in order to get anything else done. Might as well just put my "this belongs to" sticker on the front of it right now, because this book is going to be making the rounds with all my bookish friends!
By the way, great review, Maggie!

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