Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Code Name Verity

Code Name VerityHave you ever read the final lines of a book and had the uncomfortable feeling that you missed something?  Big?

That’s how I felt when I finished Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.  Agents and other writers have recommended it, and it receives fabulous reviews on Goodreads, but I almost gave up on it.

The Premise

Code Name Verity tells the story of two young women, who would never have been friends under “normal” circumstances,” brought together by the horrific events of World War II.  They both contribute to the war effort for Great Britain, one as a pilot and the other as a spy.  Unfortunately, both end up stranded in occupied France while carrying out a secret mission.

The book opens from the point of view of one of the girls; she uses many different names in the book, but let’s just call her “Verity.”  She’s in a Nazi prison, writing her confession.  But her rambling narration often left me frustrated and confused.  I told the book club girls I was giving up.

“No,” they all said.  “It gets better by page 200.”

Two hundred?  That’s pretty far in.  But I plugged on.

At page 200, the point of view shifts to Maddie, and she’s much easier to relate to.  As she tells her side of the story, Verity’s confession makes more sense.  Plot twists and surprises come to light.

Recommendations

Code Name Verity is definitely worth reading.  Most of the reviewers on Goodreads are fearful to say too much about the book, worrying about spoilers, but I think these tips are helpful and not too revealing.

  • It’s great for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, strong female leads, or airplanes and flying  (I don’t really care about airplanes or flying, which was another reason why the first half dragged for me.)
  • Despite Verity’s wandering narrative, remember that she’s a very bright, strong-willed character.  And that she specializes in CODE.  She has important things to share, even when it doesn’t seem like she is.
  • The book is set during WWII, and involves Nazi interrogation, so expect to be repulsed and sad at times.
  • You can find great study guides / discussion questions on-line, especially if you’re a teacher working on a WWII unit, or someone with great interest in WWII.
  • It’s a powerful story of the sacrifices made by many people during WWII, sacrifices that many of us today have never had to consider.

As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I missed some important pieces to Code Name Verityin particular, I had a hard time relating to Verity.  I plan on rereading the first part, just to get everything I can out of the book.

Have you read Code Name Verity?  Did you enjoy it?  How did having two narrators hurt or help the story?  

Thanks for your input, and happy reading!

Julia 

Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.

10 Comments

  1. Hello, I originally read this book when I was fourteen and would highly recommend it to teenagers. I just read it for a second time, and it was just as brilliant as the first time I read it. I have read a lot of reviews that do not like the first part of the book, but I really liked it. Never did I think of putting the book down. I would recommend this book to adults because it is the best book I have ever read. I am a pretty well read kid too! There are some pretty horrible “adult” books that adults read and I think it is sometimes best to look past the genres that books have been classified in. The dual narration in this book makes it a unique book, I love it, and I think that it works well!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Gabriel. I keep meaning to reread Verity because I know there’s a lot of good stuff going on. And yes, it’s definitely good to look beyond genres. I’m an adult but often prefer YA – there are so many “horrible” adult books out there.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Hello!

    Thanks for the review of “Code Name Verity”. I’ve read that it is classified as a Young Adult book but many bloggers seem to be reading it as an adult book with great enjoyment. My question is whether you would recommend this for adults, or whether it would be appropriate for teenagers. My main concern is with violent content. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lee-Anne! Nice to “meet” you! I think it’s appropriate for teenagers. One character is tortured by the Nazis, but she refers to the experiences in fleeting details. Enough to cause empathy, but it’s not a pervasive issue. Also, near the end of the book, Nazis shoot several prisoners. The fact is, the Nazis were cruel, and teenagers need to know and understand this tragic part of history. This book does a great job of presenting courage in the face of cruelty and the value of friendship and loyalty in a time of tragedy.

  3. I have read this book twice now. The first time I loved it and was amazed by it’s power. The first section of the book – Verity’s story, is slow moving and I wasn’t sure why everyone was raving over this book. Then I started the 2nd part of the story – told my Maddie – and I completely understood the rave reviews. Maddie’s story puts all the pieces of Verity’s story in perspective. I wasn’t so sure that I liked Verity all that much while she was telling her story – but, through Maddie’s story, I came to understand Verity’s courage and strength. The second time I read this book – I saw how wonderfully crafted this story is. Elizabeth Wein lays the whole story out in front of you – you just don’t recognize it all on the first reading. I highly recommend this book to all!

    1. Yes, I had the same experience- didn’t really like Verity either, was very confused by part one, UNTIL I read Maddie’s part. I haven’t read it for the second time, but want to, so I can experience the appreciation that you did. But didn’t you wonder while you were reading this, after everything we’ve heard about GRABBING AGENTS in the first few pages, how she ever found someone to rep this book? Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I saw this recommended before, and I looked at it briefly at the library. Didn’t seem like my bag. BUT, now since this is a second reco, I think I better pick it up. Thanks:)

  5. I picked this book up at a bookstore the other day and wrote it down as a book I wanted to read – thanks for the tips. I’ll persevere and get to page 200, then we can compare notes!

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