Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein

Excerpt (Courtesy of Goodreads): I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

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.

So, there I was in the middle of November, dreadfully behind in my word count and swearing off reading any more books until I finished my own novel. Then I got the flu. And did absolutely nothing but lie on the couch for six whole days while my offspring watched more television in one week than in his entire previous life (when my husband saw that we were on episode 26 of The Magic School Bus, he asked if we had really watched 13 hours of TV that week. I didn't tell him about all the Curious George episodes we mixed in there). Anyway, sleep wasn't always an option because of all the nasty congestion/hacking cough issues, and so of course I had nothing else to do while my body desperately tried to recover than read. And this book happened to have been sitting on my nightstand since early October, so I thought it as good a time as any to check it out.

And, wow.

Yes, it's another WWII book. I am quite sick to death of WWII books (which is why this one sat on my night stand for so long), so for me to say this is a good book means it is a really good book. Now, it's no Book Thief (another book I judged because it is a WWII novel and then got proved oh so wrong), it doesn't have quite that kind of emotional punch to it, but I still cried at the end. This is a completely different kind of story told in a very unique way, and I really, really liked it.

This is one of those books I should not have read while attempting to write my own novel, because it just highlighted how completely inadequate I am at creating awesome characters (this book has awesome female characters) or framing a story in a unique and engaging way (the way this story is told is just so perfect). Basically, I stand in awe of Elizabeth Wein and her creative genius.

Unfortunately, I have to be rather vague about the specifics of the plot, because I don't want to give anything away. Really, this book is so much more fun if you go into not knowing anything, because in the first few pages you're like, "Is this really happening? Should I be cheering for this character, or hating her?" and then by the end, when you figure everything out, it's just all so awesome. So all I can really say is it's about a fictional female British spy and female airplane pilot in WWII, and it's kind of a thriller but also so much more than that.

So I know that's pretty vague, but just trust me on this one. It's worth your time. I mean, doesn't that excerpt up there just totally intrigue you?

So, briefly, what I can say is that I loved the characters. The two main female characters were both awesome. This was not necessarily a book with a feminist agenda or anything like that, but it nailed how to have awesome strong female leads with no real love interest (hints of one, but only tangentially). Both these girls were just real, and I loved them both. Especially Queenie. Except for her foul language, she's exactly the kind of person I envision myself as being, if I were ever to write myself into an awesome female lead action role.

A few warnings: there is some salty language, and there are some disturbing things described (Nazi torture, it's not pretty stuff), but I would still recommend this one to most high schoolers. Also, there are a lot of technical descriptions of planes and stuff. I can see how that might bore some people, but honestly, I thought it just gave the story a lot of credibility.

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