ISBN 1423152190 and 1743105673
*Please note that the following post may contain spoilers and does not summarize the text, as it was written as part of my coursework for LIS 7220 Materials for Young Adults, and the first group of intended readers are my professor and classmates, who should be familiar with the book. If I make adjustments or an additional post with summary/review information in the future, I will post an update link here. Now read on!
I listened to the majority of Code Name Verity, and it did me a world of good, especially for a piece of historical fiction in which the nationality of the narrators and characters plays a significant role both to the historical context and the plot itself. The narrators also did an especially good job of making me feel a personal connection, especially in regards to the friendship central to the story. Sonja told me that when she read it (also for class), a lot of people disliked the first section of the book because they were mad at Julie for giving away information. I, on the other hand, perhaps through the quality of narration as well as through textual clues, was always skeptical about how true all of her statements to the Nazis were, but her emotional connection to Maddie rang true.
How odd is it to read/listen to a book in which you don’t know the name of your narrator for such a long time? I think the long wait for the reveal on Julie’s name rather contributed towards the themes of truth and untruth, as well as identity, in the book. It made it easier for the reader to read/hear Maddie struggling with calling Julie “Verity,” but knowing that actually, she was both. That she was “Queenie” too. What threw me off most was that when Julie reveals her name, she sheds her associations with all of her nom-de-plumbs, yet for the reader, on some level that’s most of what we’ve known. Can we claim to know Julie as much as Maddie can? I think so…but it’s all between the lines, and in the feelings versus the facts.
That said, this book by its very nature around the idea of what is “truth” plays with the crux of the Historical Fiction genre. If this story is real – if the situations, the concrete wartime facts, the feelings, are real, yet the characters themselves are fictional, do we call it true? The “Authors Debriefing” or historical note at the end of the book gives evidence of what Julie finally writes, “I have told the truth,” but for the author Elizabeth Wein having written the truth of these girls. Even Wein’s own experience as a pilot shines through in Maddie’s enthusiasm for being in the air.
I think because of this use of theme which ties in so wonderfully with the genre, Wein writes both a skillful, suspenseful, and great introduction historical fiction, even, for young adult readers. I loved it as an adult but could predict a few of the invisible strings in the plot at the beginning which were pulled towards the end.