February 3, 2014
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
Verity and Maddie are best friends. Ironically, they would never have met if it wasn’t for WWII. Verity is Scottish, schooled in Switzerland. Maddie’s grandfather sells and repairs motorcycles. She learns the trade from him and it is this knowledge of engines that earns her an opportunity to fly.
The two meet when a lost German pilot nears their British airfield. Maddie may be a radio operator but it is Verity who uses her knowledge of German to lure him in. The two quickly gain a reputation as an amazing team.
Unfortunately, it is also the War the seperates the pair. Maddie is the pilot flying Julie and her radio into Nazi occupied Germany when their plane takes a hit and is too damaged to land. Verity makes it into town but is captured by the Gestapo. I’m not going to discuss much more about the plot because I don’t want to give away any of the twists or turns.
This is an astonishingly complex novel. We have two narrators, Verity and Maddie. Both claim to the tell the truth, but their truths sometimes contradict each other. The reader is led to suspect that reality is in there somewhere but it is up to them to tease it out.
There’s no doubt in my mind why this book one the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Clearly, these girls had a mission but just what it was remains a mystery until at least mid-way through the book. Then there is the way that fact is interwoven with necessary falsehood.
This isn’t an easy book. The Gestapo wasn’t gentle in their attempts to extract information. For the most part, very few details are given. It is never particuarly graphic. That said, it does deal with some harsh realities. Personally, I’ve heard some people say they don’t think this book is appropriate for teens. In all honesty, high school students are almost old enough enter the military. That means they are almost old enough to experience what happens in this book.
I think that part of the problem is that this is a hardcore adventure novel with female characters. If male characters experienced these things, there would be much less fuss. But these are girls. Girls should be protected and sheltered which is, ironically, one of the themes in the book.
Still, if you aren’t sure, read it for yourself before handing it to your teen. You may find yourself having some interesting discussions on bravery and valor and just who is capable of what.