Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Five Things About CODE NAME VERITY

I’ll confess right up front that I’m not usually a big historical fiction fan. I realize this seems somewhat hypocritical of me, as I was a history major in college and adore history, but a lot of times, I find historical fiction more impenetrable than a primary source document. The characters either don’t feel like real people to me, or they feel like modern people to me. I get distrated by historical info-dumps and bored by epic scale machinations. Basically, I like my historical fiction very personal and very intimate. So when I got sent a copy of CODE NAME VERITY, I thought, okay. I’ll read twenty pages and then I’ll give it to my sister.

But my sister has not yet gotten this book, because I don’t want to let it out of my house yet. I adored it.

1. First of all, I believe it. The people feel like real people to me, and the details feel like real details. ARE they real details? Possibly not. We all slip up on our research sometimes, but man, this stuff feels genuine. The main character’s best friend is a pilot, and that part I knew was real even before I read that Elizabeth Wein had a pilot's license. I could feel the real-life love and knowledge of flying seeping through the pages. It was grand.

2. It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve read before — certainly not in YA. Not just in genre or in subject matter, but just . . . the characters are unique and specific people and the situations they’re in are unique and specific. It feels like I looked through a tiny window into a real life, and that’s just not something you can cut and paste.

3. As with all my favorite books, it rewards the careful reader. If an author can make me gasp once, it’s likely that novel is ending up on my favorites shelf. If an author can make me gasp THREE TIMES, either the author is making me read their novel underwater or it’s really cleverly done. This one’s really cleverly done. It was a three-gasper. When was the last time I read a three gasper? I don’t remember. Maybe when I read THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST underwater . . . Now, that said, CODE NAME VERITY is not a fast read. If you go into it expecting to whip through it in an evening or even two, you’re not doing it justice. Give the characters some time to infest your heart.

4. It’s hard, but not harrowing. This is worth pointing out, because the central premise is that the narrator has been shot down over occupied France and is now being tortured for her confession. It could be awful. Sort of like BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, which I also loved, but would never read again because of how hard it was. This book, on the other hand — not only does it have so many lovely and sweeping moments, but it’s also surprisingly funny. I laughed out loud several times. Thought when I tried to explain to Lover why I was laughing, I invariably failed. LOVER: I thought you said she was being tortured? ME: Yeah, but, the Hitler line, it . . . never mind.

5. It stuck with me. This, to me, is the Holy Grail of novels. I love some novels and forget them the moment they’re out of my sight. Other novels I love and then they become part of me for days or weeks or forever. I will be reminded of them at the strangest moments. CODE NAME VERITY does more than stick with me. It haunts me. I just can’t recommend it enough. I can’t even make this recommendation funny. I love it too much.

8 comments:

Kim Reads said...

I am so excited for this one! Thanks for the great review.

Melyssa Cave said...

Sounds like a cool book... I kinda felt like that about Shiver, Linger, and Forever... :)

Cialina at Muggle-Born.net said...

I keep hearing how awesome this book is. I MUST read it soon.

Victoria said...

I loved Scorpio Races that way! Definitely have to read this one...

Jeska Stowell said...

Sadly my library doesn't have it yet. Probably because it's not being released until May?

Sigh.

Erika said...

Sooooooooooooo. Maggie. *coughs* What's your favorite type of cookie? Whatever it is, I'll make it. Just, erm, can I have the book? Just for a teeny bit? Pretty please? *flutters eyelashes and gives a winning smile*

All joking aside (was I joking? I dunno. The offer still stands, just in case you're interested! ;] ), this book sounds just the sort of book that would fascinate me. I'm a tad obsessed with spies at the moment (thanks to the AMAZING book "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"), so this book will probably just further add to my furor. Thank you for alerting me to it!

Now, how about those cookies...

Anita Saxena said...

I have to echo the comment made by Victoria, the characters from the SCORPIO RACES are still with me. And if that's how you feel about CODE NAME VERITY, I will definitely give it a read.

alaska said...

I cannot agree with you more. I am also a distinguished member of the "I have a history degree and am a history GEEK but do not love historical fiction almost ever" and was a little wary of this book . . . but the reality of it is that every piece of this book felt real so that I didn't *care* about dissecting all of what was true and what wasn't. The great thing is, that is kind of what history is about in general - whoever tells the tale gets to record the "truth". Queenie did tell the truth. As did a lot of other people. But so many things were fact in the book that it made my historical heart so happy, and the plot was so . . . I, for one, couldn't put the book down, not even in the beginning. But I am the sort that rereads books over and over (I can't tell you how many books I own that I have re-purchased in kindle format so that I can have them with me whenever the inspiration strikes to read them again), so I have read CODE NAME VERITY three times already, I think because the characters do haunt me. I want more of them. I want the small details. I want to know everything about them, about all of them.

(Love the part about trying to explain the humor. Oh, Queenie! So daft and brilliant!) It does reward the careful reader, and it rewards the reader that loves reading. Utterly brilliant. I am so glad to see that someone else felt the same way!

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