Code Name Verity (review)
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Reviewed by
Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. [352p]. Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4231-5219-4 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4231-5325-2 $16.99 R* Gr. 9-12.

The book opens on a simple premise: Verity is a captured British spy handing what information she has of the Allied war effort over to her Gestapo captors, and the novel constitutes her written confession of all the events that brought her to this crossroads. Verity is a born storyteller, and she interweaves this confession with memories of her best friend, Maddie, the pilot who dropped her into Nazi-occupied France and who may not have survived landing the plane. Wein imbues the focused perspective with incredible richness (Verity's allusions to torture and the horrors of her confinement, along with jagged tonal shifts, allow her desperation to bleed through her matter-of-fact narration) and layers of implication: Is Verity escaping into happier memories? Using her final testament to pay tribute to her friend's truncated life? Toying with her captors to draw out the dim possibility of rescue? Or is there more encoded in this last missive than readers can glean? This innovative spy tale flips the standard progression of the rescue novel to brilliant effect, beginning with a heroine whose doom seems inevitable and then ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels through the sparing introduction of hope. When the focalization shifts midway through the novel, Wein starts to masterfully, inexorably fit the puzzle pieces into a harrowing whole that invites readers to reexamine all that came before even as it keeps them frantically turning the pages for the next revelation. Verity and Maddie are believable and utterly compelling in their strengths and fears and motivations, and their commitment to each other in the face of extreme peril will speak to a broad spectrum of readers. Verity's obsession with getting her story in writing and her references to the many other stories that intersect hers (the other prisoners, the Jewish girl whose name graces the flute music used as paper for part of Verity's confession) are powerful invitations to consider all the untold stories, all the voices silenced in war, all the heroics that unfolded in the absence of surviving witnesses. This is a dense novel built to be savored, with a vivid friendship at its core and courage and heartbreak infused into every struggle. An author's note explains the historical research, and a bibliography offers suggestions for further reading on the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, France during the German occupation, and Allied female spies in World War II.