Tag Archives: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity revisited

It has been seven years to the day since I first posted about Code Name Verity here.

There are a few stories in the world that bleed backward and forward from their point of origin in your life, so that it almost seems like they have been there forever.

There are a few stories that reach out and grab you from the very first page and keep you in their power well after the cover has been closed.

There are a very few stories that seem so tangible and real that it is still hard to believe that the characters didn’t actually exist, that Maddie never flew a Lysander and Julie never bluffed her way desparately through an impossible situation.

(Fly the plane, Maddie.)

It’s probably obvious that, for me, Code Name Verity is all of those. I’m not a reader who collects second copies of books, but at one point I had three copies of this one, and two of its companion book, Rose Under Fire. It is so intensely personally important that at any given moment I just find myself thinking of a moment, a quote, a character. Still, even after seven years. It happened to me last night when I was driving home in fog.

But it’s not just me. I don’t have any empirical data, but I’ve seen it cited over and over as an influence on other YA writers and readers. It was a book centered on two girls and their friendship at a time when that largely felt rare and impossible. Right now in this year of 2019 we’re having a mini explosion of YA that’s at least billed as feminist, but in 2012, the attention was largely on male authors who perhaps wrote a female main character on their third or fourth book. (But she didn’t have any female friends, of course.)

I am not trying to make a sweeping argument that there were no feminist YA books before CNV, because almost every time we make that kind of “first of its kind” argument, we erase some bit of our history. However, it does feel true to me that in the moment it was published, a book that was so intensely focused on female friendship felt a bit like a thunderbolt and a wake-up call combined.

(We make a sensational team.)

And because it was set in the middle of WWII, a realm that has often been centered on male stories and experiences, CNV was also a way to remind us that women had a place in the middle of the war. As pilots, as spies, as wireless operators, as code-breakers. As Polish Girl Scouts and Russian Night Witches and Jewish resistance fighters. And also as German drivers and camp guards and filmmakers. It doesn’t attempt to tell all those stories, but it resists that idea of the lone woman in a male world that sometimes crops up in historical fiction. It gives a sense that women were everywhere and that all their stories are important, even the ones that aren’t as thrilling.

But most of all, Code Name Verity gave us Maddie and Julie. And I don’t know exactly what to say here except that I love them both so fiercely that there aren’t exactly words for it. Maddie-and-Julie, Julie-and-Maddie. The sensational team. The story is supposed to be about the planes, but it’s always about them. Every twist and every allusion. Flying in silver moonlight, in a plane that can’t be landed. This is a story they’re writing to each other and also creating between themselves; at the same time, it is somehow a story they are creating with us reading. A part of me will always be unflyable, stuck in the climb.

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Code Name Verity: ALL the covers!

So as we should all know at this point, I love Code Name Verity. Favorite book of 2012, read twice and listened to the audiobook once.* I’ve also been fascinated to see the different covers in the US & UK, and now with the paperbacks coming out there are even more covers to choose from! I’m rounding them up here.

verity uk
First, there’s the original UK version, which is what I own. It is so pretty, and I love the way the underlining in the text is hinted at in the circled name. And the rose, and the way the plane’s trail almost makes a V. It’s a very lovely, atmospheric cover, and one of my favorites.

cnv us
Next, we have the original North American hardcover. Initially I was very not sure about this one, but I’ve come around to it. I like the subtle text in the hands and arms, and the way it reminds me of the scene with Marie. And it’s a very visually striking cover.

EDIT: Commenter Frida, below, pointed out that there’s actually another cover–the Canadian hardcover is slightly different in terms of font and layout.

cnv us pb 2
The new US paperback. I really like this one–I think it has a sort of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society feel to it, and I love the fact that it shows the bicycles. It’s a fresh cover, not very stereotypically YA. And it makes me want to buy another copy.

cnv uk pb
And here’s the new UK cover (source). Hopefully someone will have a larger image at some point–I would love to look more closely at the details. I like the slight ambiguity of the woman’s expression and the tear-away effect of the text.

cnv canada
Finally, here’s the new Canadian cover (source). I really like this one too–I think it’s interesting that it keeps the same color scheme as the hardcover above–black and beige with scarlet highlights. The girl’s face really looks like she’s staring out of a WWII photo. And it keeps the “I have told the truth” tagline, which I like.

As a bonus, here’s the link to the Canadian cover of Rose Under Fire, the companion book, out in September. (Eee! So pretty! So excited!)

I will also note that Elizabeth Wein has historically gotten some excellent covers–I love the ones for the Lion Hunter series as well and I may do a separate post for those sometime.

So, which one is your favorite cover?

* I have not gone on about this audiobook here, but it is AMAZING. Morven Christie is perfect as Verity–she does all the accents and she SINGS and she is completely and heartbreakingly wonderful. Lucy Gaskell is excellent as Maddie, but Julie’s portion had me crying over things I had never cried over before. And trust me, that’s difficult.

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2012 in books, part 1: fiction

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: As you probably know if you have been reading here for a while, I am kind of a Code Name Verity fan. And by kind of, I mean I really really love this book, because it is fantastic. As I write this, I am listening to the audiobook and realizing all over again just how many layers Wein wove into this story. And yet, at the heart of it, it’s very simple: it’s about Maddie and Verity. The sensational team. I’m not going to lie–I want this to win not only the Printz, but every book award ever. This story is in my heart now, and it always will be.

The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett: I’ve tried Pratchett several times before and have bounced off his wit. The Tiffany Aching books are just what I wanted–still funny, still pointed and satirical at times, but also full of heart. Tiffany herself is a fantastic character and I love the way Pratchett made the world. My one and only complaint is that there are no more left for me to devour.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Here is a book that has been getting a fair amount of attention, and rightly so. Seraphina is fantastic–the YA heir to the middle grade fantasies I loved growing up. The details of the world and the political conflicts are wonderful, but what really makes the book is Seraphina herself. If Code Name Verity is my gold Printz pick, Seraphina is my silver. (Oh, please, Printz committee!)

Midnight Riot and sequels by Ben Aaronovitch: I gulped down all of the Peter Grant books this year, after seeing them mentioned in the comments on Sarah Rees Brennan’s LJ. Equal parts magic and police procedural, these books are also fun and quirky and, above all, full of London. I love them and I can’t wait for more. Bonus! Peter is bi-racial and the books deal with that in a great way, I thought.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: I loved Brennan’s first series, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I was super excited for the first in the Lynburn Legacy. I wasn’t disappointed. Kami is a wonderful main character, and I alternately want to hug Jared and punch him (for his own good). The supporting cast is strong as well, and the ending! Let’s just say that book 2 can’t arrive too soon.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley: This is a book I wasn’t sure I would like, partly because it’s in categories I don’t tend to enjoy–urban fiction, adult, paranormal. But in this case, O’Malley’s strong writing and characters, plus LONDON, trumped any reservations I might have had. I thoroughly enjoyed The Rook and it’s currently high on my list of books I need to re-read as soon as possible.

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell: I just really love this series. I have small patience for a lot of historical fiction, but when it’s done well it can be so, so good. And The Vespertine and The Springsweet are exactly that. In some ways, I liked Zora’s story even better than Amelia’s; I totally believed the setting and time period and characters. I cannot wait for the third book.

The Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells: I read a lot of Martha Wells this year–not quite everything, but almost. The Wheel of the Infinite was the first book I read by her, and it was also my favorite. I mean, I like all of them! But when you have a fantasy which is also a mystery which also reads like good historical fiction which also has great characters and an awesome romance…I mean, it’s like someone wrote a book personally designed for me. How could I resist that?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Okay, so this is inevitably going to be compared to the next book on my list–both came out in 2012, both featuring teenagers with cancer. And both of them are really strong books, in different ways. But in terms of which one I enjoyed reading more? Me & Earl wins, hands down. It’s so funny, for one thing. And I think it’s more successful in its stated avoidance of becoming a ‘cancer book.’

Stick around for part 2 tomorrow, followed by non-fiction, children’s books, and a general wrap-up of the year!

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Protected: Code Name Verity reread live blog

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What I’m reading

-Just finished Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince which is one of those books I desperately wanted to love…and didn’t. I KNOW. It ticked so many of my boxes, so many blog friends adored it, and yet–I didn’t. I always hate it when this happens and sometimes don’t even really know why. In this case, I have a few thoughts which I’ll hopefully manage to wrangle into coherency.

-Have barely dipped into Stroud’s Heroes of the Valley, having recently finished and enjoyed The Ring of Solomon though I still don’t know how Richard Peck, otherwise a favorite author, could have chosen it over Conspiracy of Kings. Anyway–Heroes of the Valley! I suspect I will like it quite a bit–reads on the younger side of YA and I’m guessing there may be some interesting stuff about the stories we tell vs. the truth.

-Just about to start Ladies in Waiting by Laura Sullivan, which looks interesting. The cover is pretty ridiculous, but the time period (Restoration) is one that’s often ignored and could certainly provide some drama!

-I also have Bitterblue but haven’t read it yet. I KNOW. I’m terrible!

-I’m considering re-reading Code Name Verity, which I’ve been wanting to do since I read it the first time. But every time I see a quote in a review or one of EWein’s interviews, I start crying, so I’m a little worried. But it would be neat to do a more in-depth review, with spoilers, now that it’s out in the US. Am I crazy? Will I start crying when I see ballpoint pens? POSSIBLY.

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Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

I’ve been an Elizabeth Wein fan for long enough that when I heard about Code Name Verity, I knew I was going to be buying it. And when I heard that it was being published in February in the UK and May in the US, I knew I was going to be buying it from the UK. Which I did, and it came Saturday night and I wasn’t going to read it, but then I started and literally didn’t put it down, including when I was unloading and loading the dishwasher, until I was done.

And then I spent the next hour sobbing. No joke. Because this book is beautiful and compelling and absolutely devastating.

Most of what I want to say about this book, I can’t, because it would be too spoilery and this is a story where spoilers matter. But here are a few thoughts.

In the immediate aftermath of the story, the barrier between fiction and reality was completely gone. I mean, I often cry over stories. I cried over The Fault in Our Stars, because I’m not an inhuman robot. But–well, remember my reviewish thing of that? One of my main points was that Hazel and Gus’s Indianapolis is not mine. Even with books that have entered deep into me, I remember they’re fiction. I might pretend they’re not, especially while I’m reading them, but that whole time, I’m really aware that the characters and the places aren’t real. When I read Code Name Verity, that wasn’t true. I completely and utterly believed in Maddie and Verity*, and in their relationship and in the secondary characters.

And I loved that the central relationship in the story, the axis around which everything pivots, is the friendship between Maddie and Verity. It’s so wonderful and different to read a YA book in which the focus is not on romance, but on female friendship, and wonderful to see such a believable relationship between the two girls. I love the line about not believing that they never would have met–it sounds like something from a romance novel, but it’s true here. It helps, I suppose that my sister is my best friend and so I believe the way they interact, the fact that they’re closer than family in some ways.

The other key thing for me is that most recent World War II fiction, especially for young adults, seems to shy away a bit from the reasons the war was actually fought. (Even Connie Willis’s books, which I love despite the fact that I hear there are some inaccuracies, do this.) Code Name Verity doesn’t. Both Maddie and Verity are always aware of the reasons they’re fighting. Verity has to be. And yes, there were some scenes that were stomach-churning and I didn’t want to read them–not because they were described in detail, but almost because they weren’t. But I think this book is hard and at the same time (I don’t know how else to say it) necessary.

Although Wein looks unflinchingly at the real evils of the Nazi regime–not only for Jewish or other obviously persecuted groups, but for everyone involved–her German characters are never stereotypes. At the very beginning of the book, they might seem to be, but over the course of the story they prove to be real people. They are complex and contradictory, always on the verge of being sympathetic, but never smoothed over. And it strikes me that this is exactly how they should be, and how they so seldom are portrayed in fiction.

Also, Elizabeth Wein constructs this narrative in an absolutely genius way. I realized while I was reading that something was up with Verity’s story, but I couldn’t figure out quite what. I had theories, but none of them were right, so I won’t even bother mentioning them, besides the SPOILERS. But I’m just in awe of the writing chops involved in this book. I would go back and re-read it right now, to try and work some of it out, except that I know I couldn’t handle it at the moment.

And it’s a book that’s going to stick with me. I could tell that when I went on the worst book-induced crying fit since reading A Tale of Two Cities when I was 13. Even more than that, it’s the way I’ve been thinking about it constantly since then–not the awful bits, but the bits about Verity and Maddie. And individual lines–we make a sensational team; Kiss me, Hardy; I have told the truth (Saturday night I had almost stopped crying and then I had to put the book away and I saw the tagline on the front and started crying again). I was so close to the characters that they didn’t seem to be either historical or fiction. And that, my friends, is a good book.

All my other Elizabeth Wein reviews
Elizabeth Wein’s post about the Code Name Verity blog tour
Chachic’s review

* This might be very slightly spoilerly, so look away if you want: I don’t know what to call Verity, because I feel like giving her her real name is honoring her somehow, but the moment when her name is revealed is so powerful that I don’t want to spoil that either.

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