Code Name Verity: A Review

Adelae Norwood, News Editor

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Photo by Engmont Press.

“Kiss me, Hardy.”

How can words — nothing more than stains of ink on a page — drive pain into someone so deeply and so easily, like a knife into butter? People hide behind the words, and we are our worst enemies. Sometimes we can’t help but hurt people.

The biggest culprits, in my public opinion, are authors — and this book is Exhibit A.

In the YA historical fiction novel “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein, World War II rages throughout Europe, trapping — among thousands of others — a pair of best friends in its terrorizing grasp. From the blurb on the book’s back jacket:

“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, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, [sic] and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.”

I don’t have the right words to write a halfway decent review for this story. Let’s just put it this way: I laughed, I wanted to cry. (I don’t cry when I read books. Heartless, I know.) I was hurt and I am hurting still.

This beastly, beautiful book isn’t about war, but the people embroiled in it, the people lost in it, the people scarred by it. War isn’t just one sole evil, but rather a many-headed beast made up of corrupt leaders and the people who follow them. This creature destroys everything in its path unless it is repeatedly fended off by humanity. It’s people who fight who sacrifice everything — the people that they love, their possessions, sometimes even their lives – for the good of the entire world. It’s these people who end up in planes above enemy territory with no one but their best friend.

That’s where “Code Name Verity” comes in. I have a best friend; most people do. When you find that person who you can platonically go through life with, who has your back no matter the odds, you don’t want to lose them.

This book made me feel like I lost my best friend. It made me feel like I was stuck in the custody of vicious Nazis, with paper and pens my only hope of survival.

I felt like I was in a crashing plane, in a grand and drafty Scottish castle.

I was there. I was every character. I laughed with them, I (almost) cried with them, I bled with them and sometimes I died with them.

“Code Name Verity” is one of those books that suck you in and pour another world into your mind, steeping you in its culture, in its very essence. You don’t have to be you anymore; you can become other people.

This is the type of book that will change you for the better. It will make you take a step (or a plane ride) back and realize how lucky you are. No one should have to go through what these people did.

In case I wasn’t clear, read this. Absorb it. Remember it.

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