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Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Published: May 15, 2012
Pages: 339
Source: For Review from Random House Canada
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Two young women from totally different backgrounds are thrown together during World War II: one a working-class girl from Manchester, the other a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a wireless operator. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly and before long become devoted friends.
But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in “Verity’s” own words, as she writes her account for her captors.

In short: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is an exceptionally brilliant story with emotionally powerful narration.
I knew I was going to need to read Code Name Verity when the positive reviews came pouring in, one after the other. Historical fiction isn't a genre that I usually read and enjoy and indeed, when I first started Code Name Verity, I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story. It was a bit disorienting following the narration in letter format as Verity switches between what is happening in the current and what has happened in the past in quick succession. There is also a ton of piloting details that, while really adding to the feeling of historical accuracy, were not always the most interesting to read about. But I continued on, knowing that people had gushed about the power and emotion of the story.

And I'm glad I did continue: because what I read in part two of Code Name Verity, this time told from Kittyhawk's point of view, was like a reward. It was like I had been moving through a long, dark tunnel in part one - appreciating Elizabeth Wein's beautiful narration and depiction of the friendship between Verity and Kittyhawk, but still struggling a bit with the point and direction of the story - and then BAM, there was light and suddenly everything made sense and it was like a puzzle snapping into place. The entire time in part one clues were being left and I was completely oblivious to it. It made me instantly want to return and read part one again to pick up on everything that I missed. What seemed like a frenetic and at times, irrelevant, part one suddenly became clear and evident and it was BRILLIANT.

Part two also opened up a whole new can of emotions: part one seemed more like your standard WWII novel - at least at the time that I was reading it - complete with a ton of intricate and interesting historical details (it is very evident that Elizabeth Wein has done her research well), whereas part two seemed more personable and emotional. And when I say emotional, I mean absolutely HEARTBREAKING at times. How can it not be when in such a short time you come to care so deeply for these two girls? These two girls who, while differing in personality, were both brave and admirable characters who forged a wonderful friendship. Elizabeth Wein will have you buzzing with happiness at times with the way their friendship is depicted and will break your heart in others with her strong and emotional writing.

I am happy I went outside my comfort zone to read Code Name Verity because I was rewarded handsomely with a powerful story that really had an impact; a story that left me astounded at its brilliance as all the clues in part one fell into place in part two. I highly recommend Code Name Verity to all readers, even non-historical fiction fans. Be patient with part one if it seems disorienting and unimportant because you will be rewarded if you stick to it.

Other Reviews:
Alison Can Read
A Girl, Books, and Other Things
Hooked on Books

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  1. I think A LOT of people went outside their comfort zone to read this one and very few of them regretted it. I agree with you that the second part was very different. I appreciated the first, but loved the second.
    Great review!

  2. "What seemed like a frenetic and at times, irrelevant, part one suddenly became clear and evident and it was BRILLIANT."

    LOVE this Aylee! It's always amazing to me when authors can have all these different threads out there that just seem to be a confusing mass of indiscriminate color, and then all of a sudden they manipulate them just a little and we get a whole tapestry that makes sense. Can't wait to give this one a try, I have it on my shelf:)

  3. Look at you outside of your comfort zone again! Love it. I am not a fan of historical fiction, at all, and probably not brave enough to read one. I love how it made you want to go back and read sections where clues were planted that you were oblivious too. This does sound like a really good read, I'm happy you stuck it out and got your reward for doing so in the second half. Great review chick!

  4. Oh my. Brillant and heartbreaking and emotional and strong and AH. Your review has me feeling ALL THE FUZZIES. I need to read this one. I'm afraid I'll cry, but the raving reviews are just.. RAVING.

    Awesome review, Aylee!

  5. Awesome review! I started reading this one in May via audiobook, but didn't like the narrator so I put it aside. Then I got too busy to read the book book, but I do plan to read it eventually! So many people are gushing over this story and it really looks like such an enjoyable read.

    I'm happy you liked it! Great review, Aylee!

  6. Yes, the first part was really hard to get through. It was so confusing and frustrating. But boy was it worth it. I'd like to reread the book. I'd appreciate the first part now.

  7. This is exactly how I felt when I read it. The first part really confused me because of the back and forth, but Kittyhawk's perspective made this story! It was beautiful, I'm so glad you checked this one out and loved it!

  8. Good job for going out of your comfort zone and finding a gem! I'm still struggling with that!

    I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one. I like the idea of a bunch of clues in part one that come back for the second part.

  9. It's great seeing other reviews from people where they've loved this book. I just recently read it and was surprised at how it snuck up on me. You know, for a while it was a plain run of the mill story and suddenly I was emotionally tied to the characters. It was just very intricately woven.

  10. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one too. It makes me want to read it even MORE, because historical fiction isn't my normal type of read either, but this has sounded so amazing for awhile now. Plus, so many raving reviews can't be totally wrong! :) My sister would probably love this too, as she was a history major in college.

  11. oooh this sounds really good. I have a love/hate relationship with historical fiction novels, the're either a hit or miss for me but I've always been interested in WWII and this one sounds really good. I love a great emotional story, those are the best. =)

  12. I'm glad you liked Code Name Verity, I was in the minority that didn't. Not because it wasn't a powerful story but because I didn't particularly like the way it was told - the first part was such a struggle for me, and I found it too wordy and hard to keep track of what exactly was supposed to be going on.

    But that was me. I do agree that Kittyhawk's part was better.

  13. It's great to end up loving a book outsider your comfort zone. I always like it when I love something I wouldn't expect :) I'm still not very interested in this book, even when I really liked your review, but I might give it a shot someday :)

  14. I really want to read this! It sounds fantastic, and I love when the plot is frustrating and confusing and then it all comes together (like a lightbulb has turned on above your head). Reminds me of Jellicoe Road. What an amazing revelation! Great review! I'm definitely moving this up my TBR pile! :D

  15. I've heard so many great things about this book. Now I have your review to add to the hype. I really want to find some time to read this one. Its definitely not something I would have thought to pick up on my own. I'm happy to be part of the blogosphere to find books like this one I would have never discovered on my own.

    Excellent, in depth review of the book. I'm really excited now! EEEEP!

  16. Your reviews seem to be scheduled in such a way that I've either reading or about to start the same book. Well, Code Name Verity has been on my TBR list for a little while now, but I really want to read it. I am one of those people who loves a good historical fiction novel. I am glad that you were able to appreciate it as well, despite not being a huge historical fiction fan. I also enjoy unreliable narration, so I'm eager to read this! Thank you for pointing out that the first part is slower and littered with clues. I'll have to search for them - although I'm probably the most oblivious reader ever, so we'll see if I notice anything. :)

  17. yeah this was outta my comfort zone too but LOVED IT. so much. the second half, oh wow wow. so good. i'm glad you enjoyed it. <3

  18. I've been wanting to read this!!! so glad you enjoyed it, I've been hearing news that it's excellent! Yay for stepping out of your comfort zone! It's always awesome to be able to enjoy a book that you didn't originally think you'd love.

  19. I love historical fiction and even though I've heard great things about this one, this is one of those books that I can't seem to make myself motivated to read, Aylee. But, I think it's awesome that you went out of your comfort zone to do so and ended up really enjoying it.

  20. Oh Aylee, I'm so happy you loved it. I have to fight myself from tearing up every time I see mention of this book. Wasn't it beautiful? And powerful.