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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Oct. 11th, 1943--A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

Released:February 6th 2012          Pages:343
Publisher: Egmont Press               Source: Library
First Look: ***** This is one of those books that it seems like everybody on Goodreads loved.  It has an interesting premise, but in the end it became one of those "I just want to know what the big deal is" books for me.

Setting: *****
There was a huge amount of research going on before this book was written.  Or at least, I assume the author did her research.  I'll admit that she could have made up everything about WWII aircraft and such and I would've believed it, because I know next to nothing about the subject.  But it seemed legitimate to me.  I loved the detail that went with every aspect of the setting.  It really made it seem real.  I also liked this look into a side of WWII I hadn't considered much before. 

Characters: *****
More of a 3.5 on this one.  I liked Verity.  (She goes by multiple names, and her real name is revealed during the book, but for simplicity's sake I'm sticking with "Verity".)  At least, I liked her well enough to start caring about her.  I had a hard time connecting her with Queenie, one of her other aliases--for some reason, I couldn't see Verity, as she was in the prison, doing or saying the things that Queenie did.  Or maybe that was the point. 

I didn't get much chance to connect with Maddie.  I didn't care for her as much.  I truly admire her, though, for one certain thing that she did during the end (if you've read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about).  That took some real courage, and it certainly got an emotional reaction from me.

The one thing that I saw the most praises about in this novel was the friendship between Maddie and Verity.  I knew that they were good friends, best friends even, but I never got the sense that they had the immensely strong bond that other reviewers talked about.  I agree that their friendship really came through during the Plot Point Which I Will Not Name.  Other than that, though, I felt like Maddie and Verity hardly knew each other and suddenly became best friends out of nowhere.  We never got much of the interaction that went from "Hey, I could be friends with this girl" to "I would risk my life for you".  I got the outside parts, but I feel like something was missing in the middle.

Plot: *****
I have mixed feelings about the plot.  On one hand, it was incredibly slow.  I found myself wondering "Okay, when is the amazingness going to begin?  Can something please happen already?" 

On the other hand, though, I love the plot's complexity.  The review that called it a "mind game of a novel" is exactly right.  It's like The Night Circus in that you almost have to read it twice in order to get the full effect.  While I'm not planning on a reread anytime soon, I could see how it would be fun to pick out all the nuances that I missed the first time, not knowing to look for them.  I love the revelations that come at the end, and the way it twists everything you thought you knew about the first part of the story. 

Uniqueness: ***** 
It's a nice break from all the dystopians that I feel like I've been reading nonstop lately.  There hasn't been much historical YA fiction published lately that isn't focused on romance, this stands out.  (Can we have more YA historical non-romance, please?  The reason I don't read much of it is because it hardly exists.)

Writing: *****
Elizabeth Wein did a lovely job making Verity's voice come through in this novel.  It felt truly authentic.  I also like the unreliable narrator aspect.  You don't really realize it at first.  It's convincing, and then you get to the second part and you just go "Wait, WHAT?"  I enjoyed that.

Likes: Nothing that hasn't already been said.

Not-so-great: Ditto.

Overall: This is a complex book with some heavy emotions.  It's wonderfully detailed, with mostly likable characters.  It makes you think twice, and it twists around what you thought you knew about the story.  I'm not going to dance on the rooftops singing its praises, though, like much of the Goodreads community.  The plot was too slow for my liking, and I didn't get the strong sense of friendship from Maddie and Verity that everyone talked about.  Overall, a pretty good read.

Similar Books: It has a WWII setting like The Book Thief, is rich and complex like The Night Circus, and has a prison-y feel (because that totally makes sense) like Airman.

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