Release: May 15, 2012
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.Code Name Verity is one of those incredible, unforgettable tales that haunts readers for years after finishing. I can try to describe the feelings, fiendish plotting, and fascinating historical details this book brings with it; I can try to explain why, despite my trudging through the first hundred or so pages, it mixed up my emotions and make an indelible mark on my mind. But I do not think I can fully do it justice. It is a sensational story.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Code Name Verity can be a bit dry and difficult to get into, especially at the beginning, including piloting technicalities and war terms that many readers will not understand. At times, the details drained my brain of its reading energy and forced me to break painfully away from Maddie and Verity's world so I could turn to the Internet and find background information on the ATA, WAAF, and other organizations. However, none of the information seems irrelevant; it gives the story a believable background and proves Wein did a remarkable amount of research for this novel.
To balance out the heaps of time-specific terminology, Wein includes one set of details that never becomes boring—information on the torturing processes Verity's captors use. Readers will shiver at prisoner's screams, convulse at the idea of what they had to go through, and find themselves filled with a horrified fascination. The details are not gratuitously graphic, but they are written in such a way that readers will picture them in full-color screenplay, cataloging them in the back of their brains forever.
While they are riveting on their own, all of these historical facts—from the large plot points to the tiny details that add nuance and realism to one scene—act primarily to support the plot's central element, the bond between Maddie and Verity. In truth, Code Name Verity does not tell a tale about World War II as much as it tells a tale about an unbreakable friendship formed in its face and tested by the time in history. The most important purpose of the book's historical setting is to challenge the protagonists' friendship, evoking emotions beyond those that other periods could cause. Verity and Maddie's relationship is one of the best —and, as anyone who has read the book will know, one of the most saddening—parts of Code Name Verity, and it could not have been as spectacular without its rich historical context.
Despite the brilliance of this novel's emotional aspect, the thing I appreciate most about the storyline is the artful way it is woven. Told in two parts—the first taken from captive Verity's written confessions and the second told in Maddie's narration—Code Name Verity can be ambiguous in the first section, making it impossible to discern which parts of Verity's confession are true and which are fabricated. Forced to watch each word in order to protect her own life, the title character can never let on what she is hiding, which leaves observers guessing and scrutinizing her every cleverly-planned move. All becomes clear when Maddie relates her half of the story, which allows incredible plot twists to manifest and flourish. And yes, many of them rip readers' souls to shreds.
Code Name Verity is excruciating—at times excruciatingly detailed and at times excruciatingly heartbreaking—but it is one of the most rewarding books anyone could ever read. All the pain combines to form something beautiful, bittersweet, and unforgettable, and the ending creates a stunning close for the story. All readers have to do is get there. I promise it is worth it.