Friday, 28 November 2014

code name verity - elizabeth wein

so i've been working on a review of a book i read recently for this blog but it was hard because while i liked it there was a lot wrong with it and i was trying to explain that with as few spoilers as possible, which is sort of tricky when that was one of the things wrong with the book.  and in the meantime i've been reading code name verity which is sooooo gooooooooood i have to rave about it right now. 

synopsis from only in wartime could a stalwart lass from manchester rub shoulders with a scottish aristocrat. but then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over france. she is captured by the gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. the story begins in "verity"'s own words, as she writes her account for her captors. truth or lies? honour or betrayal? everything they've ever believed in is put to the test...a gripping thriller, code name verity blends a work of fiction into 20th century history with spine-tingling results. this is a book for young adults like no other.

just wow.  this is also going to be hard to write without spoilers, but i am determined not to spoil because everyone should read it.  where to start?  'verity' is such a fabulous narrator, you get so swept up in her story you forget everything she tells you about her skills as a spy and manipulator.  you utterly sympathise with her even though you know she is collaborating with the nazis, because you are sure she is going to get the better of them in the end.  and by contrast, her friend maddie, is also so utterly convincing and three-dimensional, an extraordinarily brave pilot who is scared of pretty much everything else.  i loved both of them and felt they were my friends too.  probably because of this i found it really easy to put myself in their shoes, and experience wartime britain and occupied france the way they must have done.  i've read other novels about the soe but i think this brought it to life brilliantly.  and basically, what i really loved, is that by the end of the book, both maddie and verity make katniss everdene look like a wimp.  this is a proper 'women doing stuff' novel, real stuff, stuff that matters.  and it isn't in some extremely violent fictional dystopia, this is based on actual events and actual things real people did.  it blew me away.

but the 'book for young adults like no other' did make me think about what exactly makes it a young adult book.  is there really a distinction these days?  rather than the content being amended for a young audience (code name verity can be hard hitting and brutal), it seems to really mean 'about young people' or maybe more cynically 'marketed at young people'.  because this is a fantastic book that ought to be on every bookshelf.  really, read it.  read it now.

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