Tuesday 29 May 2012

YA REVIEW - 'Code Name Verity', Elizabeth Wein (Egmont UK, 2012)

A young, British spy has been captured and imprisoned in a German occupied chateau, nearing the end of the Second World War. She has accepted her fate but in order to endure her ordeal, she agrees to write down everything she knows for the next two weeks. Every code, every detail of the Allied war effort and every last memory of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, an ATA Pilot enlisted for RAF 'Special Duties'. And so begins a story of a short, intense friendship where nothing is what it seems.

'"Fraulein Engel, you are not a student of literature', he said. "The English Flight Officer has studied the craft of the novel. She is making use of suspense and foreshadowing."'


Code Name VerityHow on earth do I go about reviewing this book? First off, let me explain to you exactly why writing this is going to be especially difficult - 

1) As any reviewer and blogger knows, when you finish a book that you love, you can only write READ THIS BOOK in so many ways, which doesn't make particularly interesting or informative reading. It becomes impossible to put down exactly HOW MUCH you love this book and no matter what you write, it can never do it justice.

2) How can I go about writing a review when, if you try and mention anything that happens past the first couple of chapters, you will henceforth be known as a PERSON WHO STEALS ENJOYMENT AND RUINS THE  MAGICAL READING OF THE MAGICAL BOOK?

3) There's just so much going on here. So much...where do I begin??? Maybe I'll just go for a little lie down....

No, I must stay strong, MUST WRITE REVIEW.

By the way, this book was made for the CAPS LOCK, if you hadn't already worked that one out. Ok, I'll ease of the caps from now on. Well, try to, at any rate... So, here goes...

First off, lets talk about the writing. The sophisticated style here got me thinking about the nature of YA and that whole big question about what constitutes YA. If you could ever pigeon-hole a 'crossover' book, this would be it. The voice here is impeccable, the plotting so intelligent and intricate, so much more so than plenty of adult fiction that I've read, yet I would never, ever, in a million years, say it would go over the head of any teenager. It is just simply a bloody good story, rammed full of suspense, drama and emotion, written by a master. It's that simple. So forget putting a label on it. Unless that label reads, THIS WILL BLOW YOUR MIND, or a similar sentiment.

Now let's talk about the whole historical fiction thing. If your brain recoils at the words 'historical fiction', I beg of you to still give this one a go. Yes, it is set in Second World War, and yes, the historical events shape the story, but, and I think this of any genre, if the writing is compelling and the story is well told, does it really matter when it is set? The thing I adored about the war setting is that it was never in the background - this was a story about people, first and foremost, but the horrors of warfare are never shied away from, and the very real fear is always at the forefront of the characters minds.

Which brings us onto the characters. Without giving too much away, the voice hear is blindingly good. On the first page, we get a measure of the character, her intelligence, her sense of humour, her turn of phrase. All the supporting characters are fully formed, three dimensional, living, breathing people. Which makes the whole thing oh so more devastating.

"I am in the 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."

I have mentioned the plot a few times. There was one point, nearly halfway through, when I thought I had the whole thing sussed and probably had a really annoying smug expression plastered across my face. Of course, I was about as far off the mark as it was possible to be. In most books, for there to be this many tiny little red herrings, well, it would become very annoying, very quickly. But here, they are so subtle, so skilfully placed, I was left gawping in wonder by the end. That is, gawping in wonder with tears streaming down my face. I just read the last line again before I started writing this, and even thinking about it now, well, I'm getting the snuffles, so I'll finish up.

First and foremost, this is a story about friendship and how it strengthens in times of hardship, how it shapes us and leaves lasting imprints. And that's all I'm going to say about this, for fear of leaking salty tears all over my keyboard.

So, this is a book for those who like mysteries, emotion, historical fiction, suspense, drama, humour, a fleeting touch of romance... I could go on... heck, it's a book for people who love books. And I'm sure you will love it as much as I did.


  1. I am full of emotions right night, SO MANY EMOTIONS!

    Your review is perfect, Anna, you've dodged all the spoilers and written a review that I think will compel people to pick this book up.

    I'm now torn between almost crying and smiling at that last quote <3

    1. Awww, thanks Mandee! It's so difficult to write a review when I have so much love for a book. SO MUCH LOVE. Just want to read it all over again now :)

  2. I totally agree with you! It was so hard to write a review that did this book justice, especially trying not to spoil it!
    It was so clever, and heartwarming, and funny, and sad...
    Really, some pages I just sat there laughing and then, like you, at the end, I completely just sat there gawping in wonder with tears streaming down my face!
    If you'd like to take a look at my review of Code Name Verity, it's here

    Catherine :)

    1. You're right - it was amazing and such a well-balanced mix of emotions. I'm going to have a read of your review now!

  3. You and your cap locks have got me convinced. YA - adult - I just want to read something "blindingly good." Nevermind that I'm almost blind as it is; I'm willing give up more of my eyesight for a good story.

    1. You can't get a better recimmendation than over use of the caps lock!