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on 14 March 2012
I love stories told in two parts, from different narrative viewpoints, and that is just one of many many things to love about this book. The first half is told by 'Verity', a captured female spy being interrogated by the Gestapo in a former hotel in France. She begin her story with the words, 'I am a coward,' but you don't have to read much further before you realise this simply isn't true.

Tortured, threatened and terrified, Verity proves her courage again and again. Under the cover of writing a confession for her captors, she tells the story of how she came to be a spy, how she met her best friend, Maddie ('It's like falling in love, finding your best friend') and how the pair of them came to be in France.

'We're a sensational team', Verity tells us. It's this friendship that drives the story, as we try to piece together the clues in Verity's confession - being made in extremis - to get at the exact truth of what happened to the sensational team.

Elizabeth Wein lays many excellent traps for the reader along the way; expect to have your heart in your mouth a lot of the time. Is Verity really betraying her country (Scotland, not England)? Is she going to die? Is her best friend already dead, or in terrible danger? Will the two young women ever see one another again?

Midway through, the story switches to Maddie's voice. This is the tricky point at which an author can lose a reader, especially one who's fallen in love, the way she helps us fall in love with Verity. But it only takes a couple of pages for us to love Maddie, too, and to marvel at how distinctly different her voice is to Verity's.

These women are *alive*. They leap off the page and grip you by the hand, and then the heart. You desperately want them to have a happy ending, but at the same time you sense it would be cheating, or lying, to arrive at this after the harrowing and entirely believable scenes which have unfolded.

To move the reader without resorting to sentiment. To arrive at an ending that is both honest and uplifting. To make you think afresh about a part of history you thought you knew. To transport you, for the time it takes to read the book, to a different time and another world, while showing you so clearly *why* these stories matter and how they can resonate. These are proofs positive of a gifted, compassionate and generous author.

I doubt I'll read a better book this year.
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on 31 July 2012
I enjoyed this book so much that, having just finished it, I have gone right back to the beginning and started reading it again! The book is based on the exploits of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) during WWII and it focuses on two very different young ladies who come together through their work quite early in the war. As the war progresses, their friendship develops and they find themselves heading to France - and into danger. Within days one of the friends has been arrested by the Gestapo and the other is in hiding in the roof space of a French farm house, unable to return to England as her plane has been destroyed.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot as this really is a very exciting book. I like the way the narrative is split between the two main characters. The SOE agent (let's call her "Queenie") starts the story and when she is unable to continue, Maddie, the ATA pilot takes over. Their voices are very different, reflecting their different upbringing and educational background, but their dedication to their country and to each other comes through loud and clear. This is a great adventure story, but it is also a story about the effects of the war on the lives of everyday people and how sometimes doing the right thing can take great courage and can also break your heart.
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Set during World War II this is a unique and imaginative Young Adult read. Verity and her friend Maddie are close friends. It's unlikely that without the War their paths would have crossed, coming from such different backgrounds, but War has brought them together.
The story opens with Verity being interrogated by the Gestapo, she's been captured and tortured, and is about to spill the secrets of the Allied Forces. Verity chooses to write her confession down, in detail, and it is in this confession that we learn about her dear friend Maddie - how they met, became friends, and how Verity finds herself just where she is now.

Despite not even knowing Verity's name for some time, and not even meeting Maddie during the story - these are two warm and realistic characters. So very different; a rich girl from Scotland and a working-class Stockport lass, but united in their strong friendship and in their battle to prove themselves in what is very much a man's world.
There are some heart-breaking scenes within this story, yet there is a sense of tremendous strength of character, and a real insight into active service for women during the War.

Elizabeth Wein has produced a inventive, fascinating and emotional story with strong female lead characters.
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3.5 stars

Verity was sent to France as a spy but ended up captured by the Gestapo, after weeks of torture she finally broke and agreed to tell them what she knew of the British War Effort. Her story starts with the pilot who flew her to France - her close friend Maddie. Verity tells the tale of how she and Maddie became unlikely friends and the events that led to her own capture.

Code Name Verity is a heart-breaking tale of two incredibly strong women and the part they both played in the war effort. I have to admit that it took me a while to warm to Verity, it takes a long time before we even learn her name and I found the way the writing style kept switching from first to third person was confusing. The fact that Verity focuses on telling Maddie's story meant that I felt much more connected to the character that we'd never met than I did to the one who was telling the story. Having said that once I got used to the writing style I found that I had to keep reading because I needed to know how things would turn out. I grew to really feel for Verity, she suffers from horrific torture but remained strong, loyal and despite the fact she was terrified she still found small ways to be defiant.

The friendship between Verity and Maddie is a beautiful thing to watch and I really enjoyed reading a story with such strong female characters. Although they both have very different jobs they are both in occupations that were dominated by men, they had to work twice as hard to be considered equals and often found they were passed over for jobs that were given to less qualified male colleagues. The chances are that they would never have met if it hadn't been for the war, Verity is an upper class girl who was brought up in a Scottish castle while Maddie is from a working class family in Stockport so it would have been unlikely their paths would have crossed. In a lot of ways they are complete opposites but they have a strong bond that nothing will break.

While fictional the story has an authentic feel to it that just makes it even more heart wrenching to read. It gives a real insight into some of the roles women had during WW2 and makes for fascinating reading. I'd definitely recommend the story to anyone with an interest in history but also if you want to read a story with strong female role models. One thing I would suggest is keeping a box of tissues to hand thought because you'll definitely need them by the end of the book. This is the first book I've read by Elizabeth Wein but it definitely won't be the last.
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on 14 October 2015
I'm still in two minds about this book.The first half held my interest, although I wondered how our narrator got away with so much useless writing about her life while in the throes of torture for information useful to the enemy (which she had apparently already given them). I didn't pick up on all the various clues, which is obviously what the author was hoping for. Hence part 2, essentially explaining part 1, and working hard especially in its attempts to explain away all my objections from the first part. Despite being much more engaged in Maddie's story in the second half, I felt cheated by the explanations.

I didn't like the dual first-person narrators. The voices weren't sufficiently different for me to feel as though I was reading the words of two separate people. I was particularly put off by Maddie's comment that she 'wished she could write' and she then goes on and uses unusual similes in the same way that Julie did.

The story itself is intriguing, especially the more active story of the resistance, as told by Maddie. I'll confess that the resolution had me in tears - be warned! - and the story is still haunting me. I'm just not convinced by the format in which it's told.
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on 27 April 2012
Shocking. Beautiful. Hilarious. There aren't really strong enough words to describe just how amazing Code Name Verity is and I know before I write my review that it will not be good enough to express my feelings towards this truly unique novel. Julie's pained, sarcastic voice is unforgettable and Maddie's shyer, yet strong willed one is a perfect match.

The twists and turns in this book had me wanting to flip back through the pages and re-read bits but alas, I was reading a kindle edition and wasn't able to do that. The first voice has many names and to avoid her name I'll call her The Scottish One! The Scottish One was the most memorable character for me and I could picture everything she wrote - and didn't write - even though there's a good chance she could have been telling us all a complete load of bull. She was certainly smart enough to. The Scottish One is being tortured, brutally, yet it's written in such a way where it's all cerebral - not much torture is mentioned but you can definitely see it in your head.

In the middle of the story, the narrative switches to Maddie, who is shyer than The Scottish One but in no way weaker. After hearing about her from The Scottish One, finally meeting her and hearing what she had to say was like meeting an old friend and I happily went with her to continue the journey. Maddie is easily the other half of The Scottish One and in one scene she even thinks the same thoughts!

One particular scene in this was brutal and so quick, I didn't even cry, I was in so much shock. I was grateful though, as it felt like something that had to happen and not something that the author had just thrown in there for entertainment value. The story as whole is a stunning portrayal of two strong-willed girls friendship during the Second World War and one that I'll never forget.
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on 16 February 2012
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is a terrific book. It is labelled 'young adult'. Well, I'm 53, and I was entirely absorbed from the first page. This is a *fabulous* read. I have been gripped from first to last and have enjoyed it immensely. Moving, real, this book draws you into the world it portrays, runs you through the gamut of emotions and leaves you in awe. There are scenes in here that I will never forget. If somebody wonderful doesn't pick up the movie rights, they will have missed a hell of a trick. This is the first book by this author that I have read. The first of many. Great, great book.
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This is an excellent Young Adult novel which should certainly be read by people of all ages. Prepare for a clever and involving plot with plenty of tension - and keep the tissues at the ready.

The book is set during the Second World War and begins in diary form. Our narrator is the Verity of the title who has been dropped into occupied France and captured by the Germans because of a simple mistake. She has been tortured and threatened and is now writing out her story for her captor including names and locations because she is, as she admits, a coward. The story mainly concentrates on "Verity's" experiences in the war and her friendship with her friend Maddie and explains how she came to be transported to France by her friend who is a pilot. There is lots of good detail here about women's roles in the war and especially their restrictions and if the fact that they both ended up in France pushes credibility a bit far it makes for a great story. I enjoy books written in diary format and I soon found myself engaging with "Verity" who despite her protestations of cowardice is actually a brave woman - I'm not sure how I would have held up in a similar situation but I I suspect I would have done very badly indeed.

About half way through the book we switch point of view to Maddie who has been shot down in occupied France and has her own problems. The switch works well and the author uses the opportunity to fill the reader in about the experience of French people and their lives at the time.

This book works well on lots of levels. It is a really good read and I found myself totally engaged with the two women. The historical detail seems accurate to me, if you excuse the rather unusual circumstances of the flight. For a Young Adult reader there is enough detail about what "Verity" is undergoing and what might happen to her but for the adult reader with a wider knowledge of the Second World War and the iniquities of the German authorities their imagination will fill in gaps intentionally left by the author and make the descriptions more gruelling.

This is a Young Adult book so the plot is not as realistic as it may have been in an adult novel. A few things are skated over and there are too many coincidences but the author still makes it believable and engaging and she doesn't shy away from portraying some very harsh realities of the time.
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on 27 July 2016
I couldn't quite decide whether to read this book or not. I was certainly interested in the content, but wondered if it was purely for the YA market. I kept the sample and kept finding it on my Kindle, which started the whole debate off again. In the end I succumbed - and I am so glad I did! I can now definitively state it is for anyone who likes the look of the blurb and enjoys Elizabeth Wein's style of writing.

One of the points of contention about this novel is how credible is it that a prisoner of the Nazis would be permitted to write such a confession over such a long period of time. Part of me agrees with the reviewers who find this unrealistic and part of me thinks that they would potentially gain a lot of useful background knowledge from the writings of a self-confessed coward who has already provided them with eleven pieces of wireless code and was not, perhaps, very discerning as to what to reveal and what to withhold. In the end, I am not sure it actually matters, since as a literary device it is successful and makes the reader want to know more.

What else can I tell you about this well-researched novel without giving the game away? Firstly, Elizabeth Wien creates some very memorable characters and you cannot help but become fond of the protagonists as you discover how their friendship develops. Next, the book comsists of two parts, the second of which casts a lot of light on the first. Thirdly, EW's research gives an insight into the roles which women could and could not play for the British in WWII. If you want to know more, you will just have to read it!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 January 2016
Really can't make my mind up about this book. By the way, if you don't want any spoilers, you'd better stop reading this now.

It's a book of two halves, narrated by two different characters. I must admit I soon tired of the way the story was told - through the written word of the main character, as she wrote it down during her incarceration and torture - and I didn't think it would go on throughout the whole book like that. Why would her captors put up with letting her write so much apparent drivel? I'm afraid the "clues" went right over my head, until they were slightly patronisingly explained to me during the second half of the book by the other main character. And did I sleep through the blowing up of the building/town, or was that sort of skipped over without actually happening? All a bit odd and confusing in the end for me. But the story is totally believable, and totally awe-inspring.

I've been lucky enough to meet a husband and wife who were both active in SOE during the war, and a more warm polite unassuming pair of gentle grandparents you couldn't hope to meet. What people of their generation coped with and got up to just beggars belief.
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