Code Name Verity

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Code Name Verity Book Poster Image
Plot-twisting, heart-wrenching, unforgettable WWII story.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language

"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.

Consumerism
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. 

What 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.

User Reviews

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... Continue reading
Adult Written bysecrets1 October 24, 2014

Amazing!

Very well written with many good examples of writing techniques.
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... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byworldwar2 October 27, 2014

Thought-Provoker...

As I read this book, I thought it was overhyped and that wasn't that good. Until it shed some more light on the cruelty of war. It brings war to life in an... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love historical fiction and strong female characters

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