“People are complicated. There is so much more to everybody than you realize. You see someone in school every day, or at work, in the canteen, and you share a cigarette or a coffee with them, and you talk about the weather or last night’s air raid.”
-Location 601 Code Name Verity eGalley
Sometimes when I read, it feels like a book has reached down into my soul and pulled out something I didn’t even know was there. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is one of those books. I may not have sobbed buckets upon finishing, but I left Code Name Verity changed just a little bit, where it counts.
Code Name Verity opens with a written confession to being a coward by an unnamed narrator. It has this simple four word opening to all these threads that when you connect them weave an amazing, multilayered story. You see, Code Name Verity is a story of friendship between two girls: our unnamed narrator whose name is a spoiler and Maddie Brodatt, a female pilot serving in the RAF in Scotland during World War II. The narrator and Maddie were together in a plane that went down over France. Unfortunately the narrator was caught by Nazi officers and is now being interrogated aka tortured, and thus what we, the reader, get is her written confession spread over papers, sheet music, and recipe cards.
‘Maddie dug deep. She came up honestly, hesitating a little at the simplicity and nakedness of the confession, then admitted: “Letting people down.”‘
Straight up, I am biased about Code Name Verity. I love it with so much of my being. Friends, Elizabeth Wein’s book really spoke to me. There was something about the narrator’s friendship with Maddie that really got to me. I’m not sure if it’s the confessions of fears, the pretending in order to learn how to navigate, I don’t know — I just found myself wishing and wanting to be a better friend and person after reading.
Plus there is this wonderful Peter Pan motif woven in, which it’s not a super huge part of the book, but I loved it. I loved that a certain character’s family kept the windows of each missing family member open in case they should decide to fly back in. I actually kind of have good chills thinking about how Maddie and the narrator would say “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning” several different times. We all know Peter Pan goes off to Neverland and he’s the boy who never grows up. Well, these girls in the war, they’ve seen a lot, but some don’t go on to grow up. And well, Peter Pan means a little bit more to me now than it did before.
“Maddie quickly pulled down the blackout curtains over her bright and vulnerable soul”
What also gets me is the huge payoff. I will admit some parts are slow and may not make much sense. You might even be tempted as a reader to set Code Name Verity down. I’d like to say, keep at it. This is one where every extraneous detail is important. Code Name Verity is a book where you think you know something and then a little over half way through, you find out you were wrong. It’s layered and completely and totally genius. It is worth the effort you have to make in the beginning.
“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. I desperately want to grow old.”
Oh, Maddie and ‘Verity’ you hold my heart in your hands and I am so glad I got the opportunity to read your story. I know these are fictional characters, but for a few days they were are part of my life and honestly, I think that I will always carry them with me, as cliche as that sounds. I already find myself hankering for a re-read now that I know the twists.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other Reviews of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein:
Vegan YA Nerds – “Give this book a go, please.”
Bunbury In The Stacks – “A magnificently written story that managed to exceed my expectations”
Janicu’s Book Blog – “I feel so proud of these characters somehow.”
The Book Smugglers – “I haven’t stopped crying since I finished reading this book a few hours ago”