Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that this is my first *ever* official review. (Not sure if there are particulars to doing this, but I’m going to go with my reaction and opinions, as the whole title of Afterglow Book Reviews is the afterglow when finishing a book, and I just finished CODE NAME VERITY.)
I’d like to be upfront by saying that I don’t usually purchase books based solely on reviews (as in, most books are purchased because I’ve seen them around online--trending in my Twitter feed, blowing up the blogs, things like that); but I hardly ever up and order a book because of reviews alone. In fact, the last time I ordered a book based on shock and emotional and surprised reactions only via reviews was THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. (I tend to find some of the best books this way, I’ve noticed--and they’re usually not books I’d normally buy for myself.)
I almost don’t even know where to start, there’s so much in this book. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
This is the premise of Code Name Verity. To be honest, I did not expect it to open with the MC already captured and writing her confession. But her voice--oh her voice! Wein does a memorable job of creating a character who is speaking like someone at her wit’s end, being tortured and forced to confess, while having more strength than most of us would ever have in the same situation. I was enthralled and loving it by the end of page one. Here’s an example (from my book’s page 6):
...I am a prisoner in the Ormaie Gestapo HG 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 that 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. ”
This is how the first bit of the book goes. Her banter. Her defiance. Her fear of being tortured. And then, just as you think you know what’s going on, things change. And then, they change again. And again. And... again. Until things build up to a point where you love these two girls and you feel what they feel and you get why they’re doing what they’re doing and yet surprised at the same time that half of what you thought was going on was actually something else entirely, and then the scene--THE SCENE--and the emotional part I had read about on the reviews and was anticipating just hit me and I was so emotional about it I actually had to set the book down and walk away. (This has never happened to me before.)
As I type this, I am still affected by it. And yet, the story continues. (I went back to reading a couple of hours later.) I can’t imagine anyone not liking Code Name Verity, but as I was impatiently awaiting its arrival, I read a few reviews and was shocked to see that some people flat-out hated the plane/flight elements of the book (it’s quite a bit of info, yes, but I did what I always do when I don’t “get” something I read about... I took the character for what they said, or glazed over it when I couldn’t perfectly picture it). One reviewer said they couldn’t even bear to finish it--I understand how subjective reading is (and here’s a quick shout-out to writers everywhere--this is life, it is never going to change, some will love us and some will hate us, but for the ones who don’t like what we’ve written, there are ten who do, and for the ones who didn’t like it, they’ll find ten books that they do) but all I could think as I read that one part, the part that tore me apart was DID THEY GET THIS FAR? WHEN THEY QUIT, HAD THEY READ TO THIS POINT?????