Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 327
Publication date: May 15, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fiction

From Goodreads:
"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 and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

{ I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley. }

Code Name Verity is a beautiful, breathtaking book - one that I almost gave up on.

"Verity" tells her story, present and past, as she writes out her confession for her Nazi interrogators. She's a quirky, clever narrator, adding humor even in morbid situations. Barely pages into the book, she writes this, which made me an instant fan of hers:
"What's in my future---a tin of kerosene poured down my throat and a match held to my lips? ... I do not really believe you have a liter of kerosene to waste on me. Or do you get it on the black market? How do you claim the expense? '1 lt. highly explosive fuel for execution of British spy.' Anyway, I will do my best to spare you the expense."
Despite this, though, I had a hard time staying interested in Verity's confession. By the time I finished Part One, I was about to declare this book a "did not finish." There is a lot of detail about planes and flight and war in Part One, and it was kind of going in one ear and out the other for me... I was just reading to get through it. I liked reading about Maddie and Verity's friendship, but the bouncing back and forth between the present and the past was a little jarring. I gave it a good try, but I was nearly halfway in and I still wasn't really into it.

And then I read the first sentence of Part Two.

I was hooked from that moment on. It took me a few days to work my way through Part One, but I tore through Part Two in one night. I couldn't read fast enough. There is so much I want to say about the second half of this book, but everything I try to write borders on being a spoiler, and trust me - with this book, you do not want ANYTHING spoiled. It will get your pulse racing as you discover the truth on your own piece by piece.

Wein has a lovely, evocative writing style. The technical writing about the planes didn't really do much for me, although her passion for writing about flight is explained in the author's note at the end, where she reveals she was a pilot. But the emotions that she captures in simple sentences is incredible. The first-person confessions are honest and cut right to your heart. Such as when Verity, between interrogations, writes,
"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."
So if you try this book and, like me, you find it a little slow in the beginning, please stick with it. Hopefully you will have the same experience as I did, where all of a sudden the book explodes into an absolutely incredible story that tears at your heart, a story that makes you smile and cry and want to run to your best friend and hug her tightly.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

{ Favorite Quotes from Code Name Verity }

"More than anything else, I think, Maddie went to war on behalf of the Holy Island seals."

"But she did it. Because you do. It is incredible what you do, knowing you have to."

"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend."

" '...Have you read
Kim? Are you fond of Kipling?' 'I don't know, you naughty man, I've never kippled,' Queenie responded tartly."

"The horror and humiliation weren't in that you were stripped to your underthings and being slowly taken to pieces, but in that nobody seemed to give a damn."

"Maddie was in her element, and her element was air."

{ I've decided to hide the quotes that have even 
the slightest chance of spoiling something. 
And some of these quotes will spoil A LOT. 
If you still wish to view them, please highlight below. }

"I've only told a story. But I have told the truth. Isn't that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth."

"Then she was gone. Gone. One moment flying in green sunlight, then the sky suddenly gray and dark. Out like a candle. Here, then gone."

"I bent over with my head on my knees, my heart in pieces. It is still in pieces. I think it will be in pieces forever."

"What's strange about the whole thing is that although it's riddled with nonsense, altogether it's
true---Julie told our story, mine and hers, our friendship, so truthfully. It is us.

"But a part of me lies buried in lace and roses on a riverbank in France---a part of me is broken off forever. A part of me will always be unflyable, stuck in the climb."

{ Please note: Quotes in this review are from an ARC 
and will be compared with a final copy as soon as possible. }

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