Synopsis from the publisher:
Oct. 11th, 1943–A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
First, allow me to address the concerns of those who might shy away from this because it’s technically classified as Young Adult — Code Name Verity reads like an adult novel. The complexity of the story, the caliber of research, and the characterization of both Verity and Maddie are as well done as any adult historical fiction novel you will read this year. Read it. You’ll thank me, I promise.
Code Name Verity is a beautiful story of friendship set against the harrowing background of WWII. It explores two areas that I wasn’t really familiar with: the Air Transport Auxiliary and the Special Operations Executive, a.k.a. the spy unit. I loved learning about the civilian flight organization that ferried planes and spies for various missions, often at considerable risk, and about the intricacies of the SOE. By the end, I wanted to read through the research books that the author cited in her bibliography and learn more about these brave women.
Of course, in covering two of the riskiest branches of the war effort, the stakes would need to be pretty high, and Elizabeth Wein has absolutely no problem with conveying these stakes from the very beginning with Verity’s words: “I have two weeks…You’ll shoot me in the end no matter what I do, because that’s what you do to enemy agents.” Throughout Verity’s interrogation, where I wondered whether each dispatch was going to be her last, and then the later scenes with the Résistance in France, where the fighters were literally lurking in the Nazis’ backyard, my heart was in my throat. The twists and turns and moments where certain plot points became clear were also masterfully done.
But this story would be nothing if not for Verity and Maddie. Their story of friendship in wartime and the respect and strength each gathers from the other’s courage and bravery adds a deeply human element to everything that occurs. There were several times where I wondered if I would have the wherewithal to act as these girls did if I was thrown into their situation, and then realized that they were both younger than me.
Code Name Verity is a gripping and emotional read that will leave you weeping. I highly recommend it.