Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Hyperion, 2012.

Maddie and Julie's lives would never have intersected if there was never a war.  But wars bring people together, and together this is their story....

Maddie has longed to become something grander that a girl selling and repairing motorbikes in England in the 1940s and her dream begins to become reality when she meets her first woman pilot.  And it's this small relational ripple effect that changes her job as a woman wireless operator to a full-fledged civilian pilot in the RAF, fighting for England.  She skill and mechanical know how before the war makes her a prime candidate, but as a woman, she can't quite fill the requirements as an RAF pilot.  Her potential is seen and spotted, thanks her her doggedness, and Maddie's dreams are realized.

Julie is blond, beautiful and regal.  People call her Queenie for a reason, and it's because of the confidence she exudes and the way she holds herself.  Working in the same place as Maddie, her skills are called upon when she helps the RAF take in a Luftwaffe pilot, using her proficiency in German.  While she speaks, Maddie gives the coordinates - and the two girls become fast and life-long friends.  Maddie never thought a friendship would blossom, until they started spending more time together, telling each other their top ten fears, going on adventures, and realizing that cultural differences only make them more interesting. 

But one night will change airplane crash into Nazi-riddled France.  One girl caught as a supposed spy, the other one trapped until she can find her way back to England.  And it's this friendship that continues unflappable in the face of death and destruction that makes all the difference.  It doesn't matter that Maddie and Julie are separated...their loyalty and deep loving friendship keeps their hope alive. 

This is a book of a story within a story....two tales told and seen from two different perspectives of the same situation. And it's this style of writing that makes this novel a standout in young adult literature.  Sectioned into two parts (one for each main character), that author reveals their deep abiding friendship together and apart through flashbacks in diary/transcription style.  But even more interesting, is that this book is told by the same person in both first and third person, but is done purposefully to support the narrative. 

It's not only the style that is unique, but the characters that play secondary roles to each girl.  Not until the middle of the book does the reader realize why one of them is writing such a long story.  Like it or not, I had to sympathize with the enemy just a little in order to understand his relationship with one of the girls. And this book is all about relationships; good, bad and ugly, but mostly about the beautiful friendship between two amazing young women. 

If there is a caveat to this book, it's that it took off slowly and didn't build up until I was truly invested in it, which was about a third of the way in.  At first, it was more of an inquisitive nature (what's going to happen?) It wasn't until the second part that everything fit together and the story was fully understood did I fly through the novel.  This is not for every reader, but more for one that enjoys style and literary devices and can see the beauty of the written word, not just the story in and of itself.  I wouldn't necessarily say this is just another YA books...I can definitely see this as an adult novel also.  So with that, I'd recommend it for high school...and for English teachers :)

Common Core Pair:  In the Garden of Beasts:  Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

No comments: