Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Cover image for Code Name Verity
Cover image for Code Name Verity

Hello! All two of my readers. Hi! How are you? I have exciting news. Are you ready? Good.

I was wrong.

Yes, you read that right. I was wrong. I was mistaken about this novel. I said, prematurely, that I didn’t like it. But I did like it, in the end. I liked it a lot.

“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?” —

I’m not sure if anyone here has read enough of my blog posts to notice, but I am a sucker for a World War II story. It honestly doesn’t even have to be a novel. I was raised by a history buff, and his favorite time period was also WWII. I remember seeing bunkers and bomb shelters when we visited London when I was 10. I enjoy hearing first-hand accounts from folks who lived through the war (though those voices are slowly being lost to us as the years pass). I enjoy movies set in the time period, even though my heart is inevitably in my throat for nearly the entire thing. So when I started this novel and I had a difficult time getting into it, I was doubly disappointed. I thought that you had to be a really big goof to ruin a story about WWII.

This novel is by no means my favorite book about this time period. It is deeply flawed. There is a lot of technical language, and I feel that, because she is a pilot herself, the author gets bogged down in the details that the rest of us do not understand. The voice of the narrator is jarring for a good bit at the beginning–full of British-isms and bravado that honestly got on my nerves a bit.

But, disheartened reader, please look past these flaws and read to the end. I cannot give you details. I cannot tell you why. I just must encourage you to please continue past your frustration and read to the end. It took me three tries to read this book, and feedback on Instagram shows that many commenters also had similar trouble finishing. But there are very few books with such a drastic turn-around. By the end, I couldn’t put this book down and had to finish it right then and there.

The characters are great. I am reluctant to give too many details, for fear of ruining the book for people, but Maddie and Queenie are both incredible and daring women for various reasons. Especially for such young women, their courage is of a sort that few who have never been to war likely ever personally witness. Even the villains, despite being despicable, are also sympathetic to a certain degree. The best characters are those that reflect the reality of humanity–namely that good and evil are rarely black and white. Wein achieves this in her characters.

This is a beautiful novel. I could live without some of the details about planes and airfields, but even the purpose of most of that is revealed by the end. The friendship between the narrator and Maddie doesn’t seem like much in the beginning, but by the end, you realize just how deep it runs, and it sort of blows you away. I won’t say I cried like a baby (like I did at the end of The Book Thief), but boy I got close. I highly recommend sticking with this one to the end. You won’t soon forget it.

12.3–Fly By Night

12.3–Fly By Night

Here’s another young adult novel for you, folks, although I wouldn’t recommend this one very highly. It has its shining moments, and there were definitely things I enjoyed about it, but it’s not something I’m demanding everyone put on their reading lists.

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge tells the story of young Mosca Mye, a twelve year old orphan who runs away from her abusive uncle, but not before she burns his mill to the ground.  She throws in her lot with a man named Eponymous Clent, a wordsmith and spy.  Her goose Seneca also tags along for the ride. All books in this fictional kingdom that do not have the stamp of approval from a guild known as the Stationers is banned.  In the capital city, Mosca and Clent are caught up in a war between the Stationers and another guild known as the Locksmiths.  They are the two most powerful guilds in the kingdom, and Mosca must work hard to uncover the truth about the plot to control the ruling figure.  It is a world in which no one can be trusted, for everyone is either a spy or has his own hidden agenda.

The novel is supposedly loosely based on 17th Century England, though there are no references to anything resembling true historical names or places.  The whole novel is a little bit whimsical, and if my description of the plot seems a little confusing and difficult to follow, that’s because the plot itself is confusing and difficult to follow at times. Everything is a little disjointed, and my mind struggled to comprehend all that was happening. The names, as well, are baffling and difficult to keep sorted.  Altogether I felt that the novel was a disorganized mess.

That said, I will assert that it was creative.  My favorite thing about the novel is its floating coffee shops. On the River Slye, which I presume represents the Thames, there are coffee houses which dock along the bank, cutting loose and sailing up and down river when necessary.  Because they technically exist outside of the bounds of the city, they are controlled by neither the Stationers nor the Locksmiths, and are therefore the origin for any rebellion that may be in the works.  Most of the best scenes in the novel take place in these coffee shops, and they are what redeemed the novel for me a bit.

I had trouble deciding whether Mosca was an agreeable character or not.  She is fractious, stubborn, willful, and crude, but is also motivated and guided by a higher morality than many of her fellow characters.  She is nowhere near a dainty lady, though she idolizes one, and though this is rather charming in itself, it does seem to be the pattern for a large group of young adult novels these days. The tom-boyish runaway girl is no longer a unique concept, and Mosca joins an ever-growing parade of the same cookie-cutter character.  I wish that this author, or any author, would do something a little unique with their female heroines for once.

As I said, I don’t recommend this very highly. For those actively seeking something to read, feel free to pick it up. For those whose reading lists are as long as mine, you aren’t missing much by passing on it.