Monday, July 28, 2014

Code Name Verity

For some reason, it's taken me forever to write this post.  It's not like I couldn't think of things to say, I just kept forgetting about it.  Anyway, here is the post.

Code Name Verity is about a young spy, "Verity", who is captured by the Gestapo in 1943.  She is given the option to reveal her mission or die a horrible, torturous death.  Verity chooses the first option and is given paper and pencils to write out her mission.  As Verity writes out her story, she weaves in the story of how she met her friend, a pilot named Maddie, who flew the plane she was in when it wrecked.  Verity writes with a desperate passion that comes through beautifully.

So here were the things I liked about the novel:

  • It is seriously the most well-written YA novel I have ever read.  I have mentioned before that I usually scoff at young adult fiction.  In my opinion, it's usually poorly written and shallow and very formulaic (sorry, young adult readers).  However, Code Name Verity defies every one of these stereotypes and manages to produce a gripping, moving, nail-biting book.  
  • The German characters are thrillingly evil.  They are bad, bad, bad, but believably bad.
  • This beautiful story of a friendship.  Maddie and Verity have a close friendship that is beautifully portrayed, simply through a confessional.
Okay, and here was the problem:
  • I didn't finish the book.  I know, I know (blush).  I read about halfway through and the extreme brutality (I won't go into details for those who haven't read the book) just was too much.  I don't usually like brutality in books and I would have stopped a lot sooner in a less well-written book.   But, see, I couldn't stop.  However, it finally got to be too much.  I just couldn't handle it and I shut the book.  I wouldn't say that I'll never finish it, but for now, I need a break and I'm going on to something lighter.  There will probably be a point where I'll be in the mood for a deep thrill and I'll wade through the gory brutality to find out the ending, but for now it's put away.  
So now I want to hear anybody's thoughts on this book.   Did you like it?  Was it too much?  I can't wait to hear about it.


  1. I haven't read this particular book but I agree with the problems you had with it.
    Firstly, the concept of a 'young adult' novel - I suppose this actually means a book for teenagers who are not quite up to reading a book for adults, which in a sense is a contradiction as the book you've reviewed shows (if you're able to tolerate a book about brutality why does it have to be written 'down'?)
    More importantly, books about the Second World War and Nazi atrocities in particular are a very dangerous area in terms of fiction. Over on Girl with her Head in a Book she reviewed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (negatively) and I commented and discussed it with her, it epitomises almost everything that is wrong about writing for teenagers and fictional accounts of WWII.
    As for abandoning a book, why not? I have to admit it took me many, many years to realise this - when I was younger I felt you had to finish a book, but in my thirties someone I got talking to in a hotel over breakfast convinced me you didn't have to, there are so many books to read and so little time; so sometimes you just have put it down and pick up something else!

    1. Amen to your young adult observations! I do have to say, this book wasn't written down. In fact, I'm not quite sure why this book was labeled Young Adult. But if you think about so many young adult books, they deal with really sad, dark issues, (of course there's the unbelievable romance variation, too) just packaged up in a fluffy, dumbed-down way.

  2. Though I did finish the book, I find this reaction quite understandable. Sometimes I wish Elizabeth Wein would write a book without any torture in it. She's such a great writer and I'd love to be able to read her without wincing! I ended up skimming the follow-up, Rose Under Fire because it was too much for me.

    1. I've decided to skip Rose Under Fire for that very reason. I'm glad that other people have had the same reaction I did to this book.

    2. I almost put Code Name Verity down. It is so well written, but, became almost too much to bear. It was what was implied about the torture that was the worst, for me. As I said, I almost put it down, especially midway through. The second part took me completely by surprise; so much so that I actually gulped and went back to read the beginning of the chapter again. I never saw it coming.

      I did pick up "Rose Under Fire" recently. I never opened it up. I had just finished "Those Who Save Us" and just didn't think I needed this right now. All that to say that life is too short, there are too many books to be read. Putting a book down is perfectly fine.

      I'll miss reading you while you take a break. Best wishes.