Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth E. Wein

code name verityWow. Simply wow.

I was actually disappointed when I first opened this book. The heroine, she calls herself “Queenie”, admits right away to being a Nazi collaborator. She’s spineless, cowardly, and terrified. And she swears. A lot. But this book won several awards last year (Printz Honor Book, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book, Shortlisted for the 2013 Carnegie Award, Golden Kite Award Honor Book), so I pushed through my initial disgust. Turns out you can’t take the narrative at face value.

The first half of the book is the written confession of a female “wireless operator” who has been caught by the Nazis in France. She’s agreed to reveal all the code she knows in exchange for her life. It is an ongoing account, written over a period of six weeks, that gives her current situation while also revealing her past.

However, the second half is an accompanying account written by Queenie’s best friend, the female pilot who delivered Queenie to France before crash landing and becoming an unintentional player in the French resistance. This second account gives a more complete perspective, giving us the whole truth and painting Queenie as the clever, courageous young woman she truly is. So don’t give up on Queenie until you find out what she’s really doing! By the end, you will have a thorough respect for the brave men and women who often gave up their lives to oppose Hitler’s evil regime as special operatives.

This book is brilliantly written and I highly recommended it to older readers with two strong cautions: there is a good deal of language, and many Nazi atrocities are detailed. In this case, I feel the historical authenticity and literary quality warrants a recommendation despite my “mom” concerns. However, I would give it a high school (14+) minimum age limit. It’s emotionally gripping as well as eye-opening, easily the most powerful book I’ve read this year.

Grab an Amazon copy here.

6 thoughts on “Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth E. Wein

  1. Giving an unsympathetic hero control over the first half of a book is a gutsy move by an author, and one I admire, so thank you for not giving up on this one. I’ve added it to my (hopelessly ever-expanding) list.

  2. Missed your review. Sorry. This is my kind of story. I love reading books about WWII from all perspectives. Will check this out. Author Kristin Hannah, is releasing an adult book Feb. 6 about two sisters in France and their remarkable story — The Nightingale. Based on a lot of research, but written as historical fiction. She says it’s her favorite novel yet. Can’t wait.

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