Code Name Verity
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Rose Under Fire
Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.
I am not known for enjoying books that emotionally break you. I tend towards genres – romance, science fiction, etc. But I have always loved historical fiction deeply, and World War II in particular. Last summer, I read Code Name Verity. I heard amazing reviews about it for months, but always coupled with, “It broke me.” I do not like books that break me. But everyone kept reading it and everyone kept raving and then Susann said, “One of the characters is half Peter Wimsey/half any Ellen Emerson White heroine!” and, well. How could I not read that?
It totally broke me. In the sitting there on the floor, can’t stop reading, omg, I have to reread it again RIGHT NOW even though my heart is broken way. The first part was astounding on its own, but then the second? It illuminated the first part in ways I couldn’t have dreamed. I was constantly flipping back and forth, seeing it all come together. I put some things together on my own but there was always more.
So, basically: World War II, England and France, English and Scottish female war pilots/workers, intrigue, enemy territory, deep friendship . The story of one girl captured by the Nazis for war information and the story of love and friendship that she told them, surrounded by horror and hate. It sort of defies description, especially since I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s beautiful, even in its darkness, because the light shines the more brightly for it.
And then, in May, I learned that the companion book, Rose Under Fire, was coming out this fall, but it was available as an advanced reading copy for librarians and bloggers on NetGalley. I immediately logged in and requested access. Huge thanks to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for the chance to read and review.
Here we have a new protagonist, 18 year old American Rose, and a few familiar faces from Verity are in the mix as well. I went into this knowing nothing except that it was a companion – I didn’t even get a description (letting me know that it was a concentration camp story) until I was about 50 pages in.
It started slow. I had no idea what to expect, which probably made it go more slowly. When it started to pick up, things started happening out of order and I wondered if this was really the best way to tell the story. Then it turned into a flashback and I was pretty lost, wondering, “She lost X? So what? What does that mean?” I kept going and very quickly my response turned to, “Oh my GOD. She lost X. SHE LOST X. How did that happen? Oh my God.” And then I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, utterly absorbed and heartbroken.
Like Verity, this is sophisticated narration with complex emotions on a basically straightforward story. It stuck with me for days after finishing it – the stress and horror of what she saw at Ravensbruck, but also the sadness and hope at the end. There’s no real neat way to tie up a story like this, but the ending felt true. And I only let out a tiny wail of despair that it ended – I wanted so much more. The story was complete, but I just loved these characters too much to say goodbye. It’s beautiful, like Verity, in its exploration of friendship, love and devotion even in times and places of horror.
You don’t need to read Verity first, they stand alone. It might be hard to get teens to trust the story/storytelling if they aren’t familiar with and blown away by Verity, but it’s worth the push through to watch it all come together. Both titles are highly recommended.