Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

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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.
Rating: 8.5/10

Being Cliche and Judging Books by their Covers

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I, like many other Potter fans, was very excited to hear that J. K. Rowling was releasing her new adult book.   When the cover image was unveiled a few weeks ago, I was underwhelmed.  Look below:

Fairly blah colors (almost grating), plain visual image and a dated font for the title.  When you compare the cover to what her books used to look like (see below), it’s really hard to get excited.

Sure, different genre, different type of book, and adult to boot.  Perhaps the designers were trying to distance us from the book series we all grew up loving.  But what it made me think of was simply a cheap 70’s paperback.

The weird thing is that this bland style is becoming common in adult books.  If you look at the top 200 2012 publications on Goodreads, you come up with 2 adult books that look roughly the same to Rowling’s blah cover:










While not visually appealing, both of these book covers at least have a better color scheme.  I am not sure what started this trend, but I don’t like it.  When most readers pick out a new book to read, if they do not have a recommendation from friends, many of us will not get past the title and cover without something to grab our attention.

If you want to have a simple but intriguing cover, take a page out of Alif the Unseen.

Plain color scheme, but the texture of the green background draws your eye and gives you a bit of hint towards the story.  It was actually this interesting cover that got me to put it in my audiobook cue.

Another of my most recent audiobook listens is Some Kind of Fairy Tale.  An adult book, but it proves that you can still use a beautiful cover to bring your audience in.  With its fantasy elements, the cover matches its book’s themes and lends clues to the plot inside:

Let’s be honest – publishers know that we all look at book covers.  Just take a look at this (disgusting) Twilight-style cover for Pride and Prejudice I found at a Books a Million a couple weeks ago:

While this disgusts me in so many ways, it is a way to get Twihards to read a much better book and transition them into a higher class of literature.  But the fact that we have to pander to young women readers to read Jane Austen through a Bella and Edward, black/white/red cover makes me cry inside.

What about you?  Do you find yourself picking up a certain book because of what is on the cover, or are you able to transcend the images? (If you say yes, you’re probably lying!)