Kiss Me Hardy! Kiss Me Quick! A Review of Elizabeth Wein's "Code Name Verity"

3992wein_code_name_verity-1A little background on how I discovered this book. My mom sent this book to my daughter as a Christmas present when she was four years old. Not for her to read at the time, but to keep for her until she gets older because of the title. My daughter’s name is Verity. I read Nemesis by Agatha Christie in Middle School and Verity was one of the main characters in the book. I fell in love with the name, so that is what I named my daughter.  Being that Verity is an English name and not super common even there, you can imagine that it is rare to find anything with the name Verity in it, on it, etc. So my mom had stumbled across the book and bought it for her. When I opened the book to the dedication page, I got a little surprise of my own. It says “To Amanda” which is, of course, my name.  So, while my name is super common and Verity’s isn’t, to have them in the same place like that anywhere other than her birth certificate was pretty cool. Code Name Verity is a young adult historical fiction novel set in World War II. The book takes place in a combination of Great Britain and Nazi occupied France.  The author changed the names of all of the cities in the book to make them more fictional.

At the beginning of the book, we appear to be reading a journal or a diary of a spy that was caught by the Germans.  As the book progresses we come to realize that what we are actually reading is her confession. In a beautiful blend of past and present, we see the wonderful story of Maddie and how she learns to fly mixed with our narrator’s present torture.  As the story progresses the narrator herself appears in her story and we see how she and Maddie became friends. About halfway through the book our original narrator’s story stops mid-sentence. We are left to wonder for quite some time what has become of her. The story picks up with a different narrator who is being hidden by the French Resistance. The voice of the second narrator is similar to the first but, due to subject matter and the situations, there is absolutely no confusion as to who is writing.

This book is a beautiful story of friendship and courage. The two main characters are both females doing jobs that very few females did at this time in history. Before the war started there were more female pilots than there were once everything began. All the planes were commandeered and there were very few jobs for women in active duty in the military at that time. Maddie finds one of those few jobs through a series of luck and skill, and is very happy. Her best friend becomes a spy. Again, not a very common profession for a woman of that time. However, Elizabeth Wein did her research. For every major plot point, and some minor ones, she made sure that everything what she was writing was plausible. That is the real beauty of this book. Not only could it have happened but you find yourself wishing that it was a true story by the end of it.

The writing is excellent, with vivid descriptions and a very personal feel. It feels exactly like reading someone’s journal. While the two narrator’s have a similar “voice” in their journals it in no way feels like the same person. The original narrator has a much more dramatic way about her that shows through in her writing as well. This peek into the possible is very entertaining, full of adventure and truth of emotion, despite the actual work being fiction.

Elizabeth Wein is the author of several other young adult historical fiction novels. She has a five book series on the Arthurian legends, focusing on some of the lesser known characters in the legends and adding some new twist. She has also written what has been called a “follow up” novel to Code Name Verity called Rose Under Fire, although it does not seem to have any of the same characters, it is set in the same time with some similar themes.  Elizabeth Wein was born in New York but moved to England when she was three and currently resides in Scotland. She has a passion for flying as she has shown in her most recent two books. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

If you like historical fiction, check out my review of The Book Thief.