Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 332 p. Grades 7-12. Historical Fiction/Mystery. (Edgar Award Nominee Young Adult 2013).
During World War II, two best friends fly into Nazi-Occupied France and are stranded there. Julie, is captured by the Gestapo. Maddie, is trying to find her and get her out safely. In this harrowing novel, Wein explores what people are willing to do for their best friend.
Told in two parts, each from one of the girls point’s of view, Code Name Verity is a novel about friendship. While the action is brilliant, at the heart of it, the novel is about Julie, Maddie and their relationship. Julie and Maddie met while working for the war effort. They wouldn’t have met otherwise, but their friendship became the most important thing in their lives. The best part about Code Name Verity is that Wein immersed the reader in a world of spying and where “careless talk costs lives” while making the reader try to figure out exactly what is going on. Neither Maddie nor Julie are exactly reliable narrators. Even with all the action, it still is a beautiful love story, like Julie says,
“Finding your best friend is like falling in love.”
Although I loved the novel, I had a hard time getting through the first half. The novel begins with Julie having just decided to give a full confession to the Gestapo. I had a really hard time suspending disbelief and believing that the Nazi’s would give her two weeks to right a story, not just airplanes, airfields, bases but the story of Julie’s friendship with Maddie. To me this was too unrealistic. In fact, it was this problem that made it hard for me to get through the first half. Ultimately, I am so glad I did, but it was still difficult. While, Julie’s story was interesting and compelling, I had a hard time reconciling it to what I believe I know about history.
Maddie’s story really brought the book together for me. Once I started Part 2: Kittyhawk, I couldn’t put the book down. While part 1 may have been a bit better written, part 2 tied up the loose ends and shocked the reader by what was really going on in part 1. There are times in part 1 where you think you might know the ending to the novel and what Julie really was doing, but in the end Wein kept me guessing the entire time. Part 2 had me going back through part 1 to look at all of the parts that I misinterpreted or just missed in general.
Code Name Verity is a thrilling read, that I think many girls will be able to relate to. The friendship between Maddie and Julie is compelling to read and reminds me of my relationship with my best friend. Even though the book centers around two girls friendships, I think boys could enjoy it, especially because of the details about the war, spying and torture. I just don’t know if they would understand the relationship and want it to become more than just friendship.