Code Name Verity, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Code Name Verity, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Plot-twisting, heart-wrenching, unforgettable WWII story.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 11 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

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.

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

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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


Very well written with many good examples of writing techniques.
Teen, 16 years old Written byArianaGoltz April 11, 2017

Code name verity

I bought this book expecting some boring World War 2 male fantasy about guns, tanks, and blood. This book was surprisingly different. I must admit that I am not... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byLovelyravioli October 8, 2017

Beautiful (I cried reading this)

One of my favourite books I've read; completely riveting and eye opening. A beautiful story of friendship and honesty. It is not without adult themes, but... 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love historical fiction and strong female characters

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate