Sunday, August 19, 2012

REVIEW: Code Name Verity

Wein, E.  (2012).  Code Name Verity.  New York:  Hyperion.

333 pages.

When it came to choosing to read Code Name Verity, descriptions of the story didn't really win me over.  I imagined the humorless drama, angst, and depictions of the horrors of war I usually associate with historical war fiction.  And I wasn't exactly feeling it.  But then there were sooooo many recommendations to read it, I sighed and climbed off my judgmental high chair to read it.

I'm glad I did.  Because within the first few pages, although some of horrors of war are certainly present, I found myself chuckling--actually chuckling--at some of the protagonists' narration.

What a wonderful surprise.

Appetizer:  Scottie has been captured by the Gestapo in France in 1943 two days after the Allied plane that carried her there crashed.  Unlike some of the other Allied prisoners being held with her, she takes the "easy route" and immediately reveals what few secrets she knows.  Ordered to write her confessions for the Gestapo, Scottie shares about her past leading up to the war and about Maddie; the friend she flew to France with and the girl who led her to this point.

Scottie's confessions reveal her tortures, fears, frustrations, as well as her passions and her intelligence as she awaits her fate.

I was rather surprised when Code Name Verity switched to explore another character's point of view about two-thirds of the way through the novel.  I have to admit, despite the dark realities Scottie faced, I would have happily faced them by continuing to read from her point of view.  I actually put the book down for several days, it took me by that much of surprise to have to read another character's story. (although, this change in point of view proves essential to reveal Scottie's true nature as well as the strength of her friendship with Maddie.)

Another difficulty I had was the way that the topic suddenly switched or the way Verity would be recording about her past then suddenly switch to insult her captors.  It could be a little off-putting, especially for struggling readers.

Despite these issues (which may solely be mine), I hope history teachers will consider assigning Code Name Verity in their classes; either as a whole class read or as an optional read.  It does a wonderful job of revealing women's roles in World War II as well as showing the terrible conditions and tortures that spies and prisoners of war faced.  It would also make a great recommendation for students passionate about airplanes or flying.

Assign it, teachers!  Assign it!

Read it, young adults!  Read it!

Dinner Conversation:

"I am a coward.
I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was.  I have always been good at pretending.  I spent the first twelve years of my life playing at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with my five big brothers--and even though I am a girl they let me be William Wallace, who is supposed to be one of our ancestors, because I did the rousing battle speeches." (p. 3)

"I'm just damned.  I am utterly and completely damned.  You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do, because that's what you do to enemy agents.  It's what we do to enemy agents.  After I write this confession, if you don't shoot me and I ever make it home, I'll be tried and shot as a collaborator anyway.  But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and this is the easy one, the obvious one.  What's in my future--a tin of kerosene poured down my throat and a match held to my lips?  Scalpel and acid, like the Resistance boy who won't talk?  My living skeleton packed up in a cattle wagon with two hundred desperate others, carted off God knows where to die of thirst before we get there?  No.  I'm not traveling those roads.  This is the easiest.  The others are too frightening even to look down." (p. 5)

"You really think I know a damned thing about where the Allies are planning to launch their invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe?  I am a Special Operations Executive because I can speak French and German and am good at making up stories, and I am a prisoner in the Ormaie Gestapo HQ because I have no sense of direction whatsoever.  Bearing in mind that the people who trained me encouraged my blissful ignorance of airfields just so I couldn't tell you such a thing if you did catch me, and not forgetting that I wasn't even told the name of the airfield we took off from when I came here:  let me remind you that I had been in France less than 48 hours before that obliging agent of yours had to stop me being run over by a French van  full of French chickens because I'd looked the wrong way before crossing the street.  Which shows how cunning the Gestapo are.  'This person I've pulled from beneath the wheels of certain death was expecting traffic to travel on the left side of the road.  Therefore she must be British, and is likely to have parachuted into Nazi-occupied France out of an Allied plane.  I shall now arrest her as a spy.'" (p. 6)

"And the story of how I came to be here starts with Maddie.  I don't think I'll ever know how I ended up carrying her National Registration card and pilot's license instead of my own ID when you picked me up, but if I tell you about Maddie you'll understand why we flew here together." (p. 7)

"There are a few more types of aircraft that I know, but what comes to mind is the Lysander.  That is the plane Maddie was flying when she dropped me here.  She was actually supposed to land the plane, not dump me out of it in the air.  We got fired at on the way in, and for a while the ail was in flames and she couldn't control it properly, and she made me bail out before she tried to land.  I didn't see her come down.  But you showed me the photos you took at the site, so I know she has crashed an airplane by now.  Still, you can hardly blame it on the pilot when her plane gets hit by antiaircraft fire." (p. 14)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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