Two young women become unlikely best friends during WWII, until one is captured by the Gestapo while on a mission in France. Code Name Verity begins with the young Scottish aristocrat spy telling her story, spelling out her confession to delay her execution and stay her torture. She weaves her tale of a friendship with pilot Maddie, painting an unforgettable image of two remarkable girls.
Wein opens strong, bringing you in deep to Julie’s story and somehow manages to garner your sympathy even while you know Julie tells secrets that could aid the Nazis. Julie writes from Maddie’s perspective; she claims to help her tell the story and to feel distant from the crimes she commits. When Julie herself first appears in the narrative, she splashes on to the page. Vibrant, she disappears into the various roles required of her as a spy and you begin to question everything she writes thereafter.
I was enchanted by Wein’s framing device and especially by her two main characters. Their voices were unique and it was easy to tell even when Julie was herself and when she was telling Maddie’s story.
Code Name Verity not only tells a great story of WWII resistance in France and abroad, but also shows the horrors and triumphs that come when the world is at war. Maddie and Julie who come from two different worlds would never have been friends without the war effort throwing them together. Neither of them would have ever held the jobs they did at that time without the war, and yet it is that war that also tears them apart.
There is a moment when Wein observes that even though the Gestapo do horrible things, they all look like normal people. Torturers, members of the resistance, and even undercover officers all look alike. While they suffer in France, Maddie and Julie both learn that it is hard to separate the evil above them with people they might have known in their own lives.
Elizabeth Wein makes Code Name Verity a must-read with a strong character-driven story, captivating details, and a heartwarming narrative that will make you believe in true friendship.
I will say that I find it strange that they have shelved Code Name Verity as YA when both protagonists are grown women and there is hardly a teenager in sight. While I understand that young girls might find their tale inspiring, I think the book is worthy of being classified as literature for all ages, without the limitation that a YA distinction can have.