Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publication Date: May 15, 2012
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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?
Told in two parts, Code Name Verity follows a couple of young women working secret missions during World War II. Their stories are told via their desperate writings. Verity must produce a written confession of how she came to be in France and why. Kittyhawk begins her journal as a way to keep track of details for when it comes time to file a report. Part I is an intentionally disjointed narrative, being written by a prisoner of the Gestapo, and takes a bit to build up to the action, focusing on the relationship between Verity and Maddie, how they came to be friends, and how they ended up in France. In Part II, the action and intrigue manifest into something more immediate as events unfold.
Verity and Kittyhawk are both amazing characters. I felt Verity's spirit from the first sentence and only grew to love her more as the story grew in depth. Her situation is awful and she is broken in many ways, but her retorts in the face of those who would torture her reveal pieces of her bravado. I wasn't initially sure if it would be possible for me to love Kittyhawk as much, but she quickly won my heart. I don't want to say too much about either girl because I don't want to spoil anything, but they are both accessible, admirable, and strong characters, each in their own ways, and I loved every second that I spent with them.
This is a WWII story. Horrible, heartbreaking things happen in it. But it is so, so very good. Again, I don't want to give too much away about the plot. It starts off a little slowly, with Verity's disjointed writing of her confession which becomes her story. She is back and forth between writing her past and her present. It is not hard to follow, but it is a slow build to find out how she came to be there. The disorderly narrative and unhurried pace are a nice parallel to Verity's situation. It is only toward the end of Verity's section that things start to pick up and time becomes an issue and things get a little more urgent. Once Kittyhawk comes into the picture, the story is less reflection and more action and the pacing speeds up quite a bit as the reader receives more information.
This is hands down one of the best books I've read this year. I highly recommend it, even if you're not big on historical fiction. This one offers something a bit different from the standard WWII fare. If you like historical fiction, WWII fiction, spies, pilots, intrigue, and/or unreliable narrators, then you need to read this book. And if you're some kind of crazy that doesn't like any of those things, then you need to read this book to see why you should be loving all of this stuff. It's