Code Name Verity

This young adult novel of female friendship and peril amid World War II is an unexpected gem. 

Code Name Verity By Elizabeth Wein Hyperion Books for Children 352 pp.

Aviation, espionage, World War II, emergency landings/crashes, POWs, the Gestapo – this is starting to sound like a very male kind of story, isn’t it?

Not at all, actually. Code Name Verity is a powerful young adult novel (aimed at readers ages 14 and up) starring two dynamic female protagonists. Author Elizabeth Wein, a pilot herself, spun her story after learning about Britain’s civilian Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) – a World War II organization that employed a number of female pilots.

“Code Name Verity” tells the intertwined stories of Maddie, a gutsy working-class woman who flies for the ATA, and “Verity,” a glamorous Scot useful to British intelligence because of the perfect French and German she learned in her Swiss boarding school.

Thrown together by the war, this unlikely pair have become best friends. But when they are shot down over occupied France, only one of them has a realistic chance of getting out – and that’s when their friendship must rise to a whole new level.

Verity, the narrator of the novel’s first half, drips personality, even in the face of horrific torture (although not graphically described), and makes these chapters page turners, although Maddie’s narrative in the second half – tying their two stories together – is every bit as compelling.

Readers should be prepared for a good bit of aviation detail, but those not so inclined need not fear. Technology does not get in the way of a good story.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's Books editor.

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