Code Name Verity Book Poster Image

Code Name Verity

Plot-twisting, heart-wrenching, unforgettable WWII story.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn a lot about day-to-day life in Britain and France during World War II, as well as details about everything from aviation to espionage. Author Wein also refers liberally to historic events (the dying words of Admiral Nelson figure prominently in the story) and literary works from Burns to Kipling. Because the plot calls for foreign language translation, readers will pick up some French and German, including swear words.

Positive messages

Strong messages of friendship, patriotism, courage, incredible resourcefulness, and doing the right thing under impossible conditions are essential to Code Name Verity.

Positive role models

Courageous, resourceful, and pragmatic, Maddie and Queenie go to heroic lengths to help both the war effort and each other. Author Wein excels at not only making the "good" characters complex (with foibles from the comic to the life-threatening) but also at showing the human side of the villains, e.g. Nazi torturer von Linden's love for his daughter.


Characters are shot, tortured, and killed in various gruesome ways in Nazi-occupied France, and there's a constant atmosphere of terror. Author Wein doesn't dwell unduly on the details, but they're frequent and vivid enough to make a strong impression. It being wartime, many pilots and other characters become combat casualties. Queenie is covertly asked whether her torturers are raping her and says no.


Paul, the Resistance leader who figures in the plot, is notorious among every woman in the movement for being "such a lech." The practical implications of fending off the unwelcome advances of one's collaborator in the underground comes up for discussion.


"F--k," "f--king," "s--t" (and the British variant "s--te"), and other swear words are used with well-targeted appropriateness in context -- it's wartime. They're often also translated into French or German.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters, generally adults, smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era) and drink alcohol. Cigarettes are sometimes used as instruments of torture and also as gifts, and cognac is used as an element of subterfuge. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 2013 Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity takes place in the darkest days of World War II, with two teen U.K. girls on a covert operation for the Allies imperiled after they crash-land in Nazi-occupied France. Author Elizabeth Wein pulls few punches as she describes the grim realities of war, the Resistance, the nasty details of Nazi torture (including via cigarette), and an otherwise heroic Resistance leader who can't keep his hands off any female within reach. Characters face terrible dangers, and some die horribly. There are bursts of foul language ("f--k," f--king," "s--t," etc.), with British variants and often translated into French and/or German.

What's the story?

It's 1943, and two teen girls become best friends when their unlikely skills prove valuable to the Allied war effort. As the book begins, the two of them, pilot Maddie and spy \"Queenie,\" have been forced to crash-land in France. Queenie, having fallen into the hands of the Gestapo and been tortured for weeks, strikes a bargain -- information for a less painful death -- and writes for the Nazis the story of Maddie, herself, and their adventures. As the plot unfolds, nothing and nobody are entirely what they seem.

Is it any good?


Sure to land on many best-of-2012 lists, CODE NAME VERITY is well written, intricately plotted, full of surprises, and as harrowing as it is compelling. Maddie, Queenie, and some of the supporting characters are unforgettable and will stay with readers long after the last chapter has been read.

With a wealth of historic and literary detail, as well as an unblinking look at bad things happening to good people and heroic cleverness in the face of hopelessness, Code Name Verity will appeal to many adult readers as well as teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about moral dilemmas: Does Maddie do the right thing?

  • How do you think Code Name Verity compares with other war stories you've read or seen on film? 

  • How do you feel about espionage? Is it justified or not, depending on the rightness of your cause?

Book details

Author:Elizabeth Wein
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Great girl role models, History
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hyperion Book CH
Publication date:May 15, 2012
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byrsbrandt August 22, 2013

Excellent book for mature readers

I bought this book for myself after reading a strong review. I will definitely save it for my now 10-year-old daughter, but I'll be saving it for several years. The characters are wonderful, and it's a powerful story. I would have loved it as a teen! I would recommend it to readers who are ready to digest frightening and morally challenging situations to be rewarded by a memorable story.
Teen, 13 years old Written byHpotter15 June 18, 2013

Great Book!

Like all war books, pinpointing the appropriate age to read this book is difficult. I read this book at the age of 12 and couldn't put it down, This is a very well written book. For kids who are easily emotionally effected, I would not recommend the book. However later in time I feel it should be revisited. "Code Name Verity" Is practically two books in one, told first by the point of view of the main character Verity herself and then by her friend and pilot for the mission Kittyhawk. This builds a very strong emotional link between the two friends. The smoking is is very timely for the setting but there is no drug use. As far as sex goes, there is none. There is a brief talk of the main character menstruating but it is very brief. The violence is quite relevant to the story line and fairly brutal giving the fact that Verity is being held hostage by Nazis, But I do not feel that it is overdone. The language is there, but not terribly frequent. This book has great role models especially giving the fact that it was rare for women to go into action during world war two. Overall I feel this is a great read and will still interest girls who don't like historical fiction. (I know I don't) Hope this helps! -Hpotter15
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bysecrets1 October 24, 2014


Very well written with many good examples of writing techniques.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models