Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

January 31, 2013 / 16 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: May 15, 2012 (first published Feb 6, 2012)

Format/Source: eBook borrowed from Toronto Public Library; read for January Toronto Forever Young Adult Book Club meeting
Length: 352 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Code Name Verity is a compelling, emotionally rich story with universal themes of friendship and loyalty, heroism and bravery.

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.


Like everyone else who’s reviewed this book, I’m hesitant to say very much about it. So you’re getting the review in GIF form that’s all the rage right now.

Let me be clear: this book deserves SO MUCH BETTER than the review I’m going to give it. I can’t believe how many five stars I’ve been giving lately, but honestly, they all deserve it, and none more so than Code Name Verity and Elizabeth Wein. This book is stunning, and hard, and totally different than anything you will find on the YA bookshelf today, and for that it deserves:

You’ve probably heard about the story: the novel about a British pilot Maddie, and her best friend, the Scottish Agent Verity, a wireless operator during World War II. Verity has been captured by the Nazis and is now being forced to write down everything she knows about air operations and the war effort in the UK. What she weaves is an incredible tale of friendship amidst her torture and suffering. Like, the best, most bad-ass friendship ever. You will seriously be fangirling all over Maddie and Verity like this:

And, can we just take a moment and bow down to Elizabeth Wein’s writing? Holy cow. The voice(s) in this book are so clear and crisp and perfect. Verity is so authentic, and in her confession, you get such a clear picture of Maddie and their friendship, and how much they love each other. You really believe that you could be reading a published version of her confession.

That’s pretty much all I can say about the plot/writing without giving anything away. I know you’re all like:

…but trust me when I say that it’s better to go into this one blind.

You may find it slow at first. I did. And the descriptions of all the machinery and aircraft and air operations were a bit overwhelming at first. You may feel like

…but I promise that if you slog through the beginning, it is SO SO worth it. We’re talking anger, frustration, love…all of the FEELS. I know a lot of people cried during this book. I didn’t. I think I was too emotionally distraught and horrified, but in awe of what was happening. Maddie is amazing. Verity is amazing. The characters are perfectly drawn and so real. I dare you not to do this at least once:

What makes Code Name Verity so great is that you don’t feel like you’re being hammered with “another WWII book.” The story is really about their friendship and their lives, and the WWII stuff is just the circumstances they have to deal with.

Verity fully admits that if it weren’t for the war, she and Maddie probably never would have met. The war is both a blessing and a curse – it brings them together, but it also makes their journey that much more heart-wrenching.

Code Name Verity is a book about friendship, about doing the right thing, about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be dedicated to something you really believe in. Above all, it’s a book about how to hold onto love in the face of horror and evil.

Also, if you’ve read it already and you know how it ends, trust me when I say you should definitely go back and read a few chapters especially Ormaie-20 (the one with the radio interview). I had a conversation with Ardo of A.A. Omer where I said that I would give this book 4.75 stars because I wasn’t sure about the beginning. Then, a few days ago, a couple of scenes were still sticking in my head, and I had to go read them again. Once I did, I was even more floored than before – this book is truly spectacular. The fact that I couldn’t get it out of my mind pushed this up to 5 stars for me and had me going:

The Final Word: 

Go read this book right now. Just go. Doesn’t matter if you’re a 60-year old man, or a 16-year old goth, you need to read this. It’s so beautiful, and so well-done. You won’t regret it.

Recommended for: 

Anyone over the age of 15, feminists, aircraft enthusiasts, spy-lovers, people who appreciate good books

Have you read Code Name Verity? What did you think? Are you fangirling like I am? Do you want Maddie and Verity to be your bffs, too? 

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16 responses to “Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

  1. Wow Tiff, this is an extremely enthusiastic review and I have been putting off reading Code Name Verity and I am not sure why exactly. I have the book and it's sitting on my table right now and I think I should definitely pick it up. Thanks for the review

  2. I never thought that I would enjoy this book, but with all of the reviews coming out and their glowing content, I think I may have misjudged. Maybe I should go ahead and give it a shot. Thanks for the great review, as always!

  3. I am ashamed I have a review copy of this for about ten months and have not read it. I did schedule it in soon and I a, very much looking forward to reading this. I personally love WWII books and I like all the themes you mentioned. I like that it lingered in your head afterwards. That is a sign of a good book!

  4. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I almost DNFed, but I slogged through the beginning and it was definitely worthwhile. Though it wasn't a five star book for me, just for personal reasons of not connecting with the characters, on every other level it was completely astounding. I love how daring the storytelling is. It speaks volumes that the book can be so hard to get into but still be so universally loved. In fact, the beginning is so rough stylistically. She took a chance, and it paid off big time.

  5. Thanks for the great review. I have been meaning to get to this book for over a year. I think I did hesitate a bit because I was under the impression that it was a WWII book, but you say that part is just in the background, so maybe I will move it up.

  6. I have this book and started it but set it aside because it felt like one of those books you have to be in particular mood for and I wasn't. But your review makes me want to pick up again! Thanks for sharing a wonderful review.

  7. RIN

    Ahhh! Why haven't I read this yet!? Everyone praises it so much and I'm sure I'll love it. And I love the WWII in the background thing. I don't read a lot of books with historicalish things in the background.

  8. I have this in audio and have been putting if off but will def get around to it now as i adore historical fiction! GREAT REVIEW! you made me so excited to get to it now and i lovveee that feeling.

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