Code Name Verity
Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Number of Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Advertised Age Level: Ages 14-17
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): not specified – early 20s
Language: no profanity
Sex: no sex
Drug/Alcohol Use: drinking of cognac socially
Violence: intense allusions to torture, war setting, characters are killed in action, one character is guillotined
Social Issues: horror of war, valor and heroism, feminism, friendship, self-sacrifice
Suggested Movie Grade: R for violence
It is World War II, and Britain struggles to survive the onslaught of Nazi attacks. Two young women – Maddie and Queenie – offer their services as a pilot and an undercover agent respectively. They meet and become the best of friends. But with war comes tragedy, and Queenie and Maddie are forced to crash in occupied France while on a top secret mission.
Queenie is captured by the Gestapo and is held in a hotel-turned-prison, where she is tortured for information. Hoping to gain time and possibly the chance for escape, Queenie puts the story of how she and Maddie came to be friends and the events leading up to their fateful mission on any scrap of paper that can be found. She believes that Maddie died in the plane crash, but she determines to fight for her life even though things don’t look good for her future.
Maddie did not die in the plane crash. Hidden by French Resistance fighters, she despairs when she learns that Queenie has been captured. She wants desperately to help her friend, but time is running out.
Potential Points of Concern
Be aware – this section contains SPOILERS for the book.
Before going into specifics, it should be said that this book is very well written and a great example of quality young adult literature. If the subject matter is appropriate for the age of the reader, this is a moving and thought-provoking story about bravery and friendship.
Queenie is held by Nazi Gestapo officers and is tortured repeatedly. While the torture is never described on screen in graphic terms, Queenie writes about it in such a way as to make things very clear as to what has been done to her. Also, she is forced to listen while other prisoners are tortured. She is made to watch as a fellow prisoner is killed with a guillotine. This is a very intense situation that may upset sensitive or young readers.
After her interrogation has finished, Queenie is sentenced to be used as an experimental subject for the Nazis before being put to death by lethal injection. This is communicated via a memo from one Nazi officer to another.
Maddie and Queenie are involved in intense battles, both on the ground and while flying over France.
Soldiers and civilians are killed as a part of the war. Not graphically described but very clear what is happening.
This is a MAJOR SPOILER for the book, but parents should be aware that Maddie shoots Queenie in order to spare her a fate worse than death.
Age Appropriateness: 14 +