I like to imagine that if I was alive during World War II, I wouldn’t have just sat back and watch it happen. I would have been one of the people that saw all the madness and took action. So when I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, I finally got to see a glimpse of what some women were doing during World War II, what they were allowed to do in Europe, and what they weren’t. And while Code Name Verity is a work of fiction, the book is well-researched and it feels real.
In the fall of 1943, a British spy plane goes down in Nazi-occupied France. Both the pilot and the spy were women. Best friends, to be exact. And while the spy parachuted out before the plane went down, she doesn’t know what happened to the plane or her best friend. Once on the ground, the spy, known as Verity, is captured and tortured. It is from her point of view that the reader learns about the two girls’ histories, their friendship, and, ultimately, their loss.
But that’s not it. This book is full of twists and lies and confusion. You don’t even know you’re in on the cover up or the lies until it’s too late. And then the end comes and it’s painful and shocking.
I did Code Name Verity as a read aloud for my excel class. This was a mistake. I spent half the book censoring curse words and the other half completely butchering German and French. I’m sure it was painful to listen to me read it. My students didn’t love this book and I think it was mostly my fault. The way it’s written, like a journal, and with so many flashbacks, it’s hard for a person to just listen and follow along. The book itself is amazing. I loved it and am still stunned by the ending. But don’t try it as a read aloud because you will fail so hard. Read it and have kids who are interested in World War II or spies read it. Just don’t gather a room full of kids around you and try to do it out loud, it won’t do the book justice.