Code Name Verity

code name

My favorite quote about this book, from Presenting Lenore: ‘It’s the kind of book that induces ugly sobbing in the fetal position, even in a “never crier” like me.’

I just finished Code Name Verity, and I am metaphorically peeling myself off the floor.

This book is devastating.

But ohsogood.

It’s been sitting in my to-be-read stack since early December. I moved it up a bit after it won a Printz Honor. (The book that actually won the Printz better be awfully good.) Then I moved it up a bit more after I saw it on SLJ’s Battle of the Books. And yesterday, I finally picked it up.

I didn’t have time to finish it yesterday, so today I had only one reading plan: finish Code Name Verity. But it took me until 1 p.m. to even pick it up. First I had to read the Internet, skimming dozens of book blogs, selecting about 15 new ones to add to my RSS feed because heaven knows I don’t have enough to read. Then I had to wander the house collecting books I’d read about on those book blogs, books I absolutely have to read right now–John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead, The Elements of Lavishness, Beautiful No-Mow Yards, Around the World, Eula Bliss’s essay on Laura Ingalls Wilder. Then the dog needed walking, then I started wondering if I shouldn’t require a little more of myself when it comes to book blogging–like actually write blog posts about the books I read–and then I started wondering how Nick Hornby manages that dashed-off conversational tone in his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column for The Believer–the columns seem so haphazard and serendipitous but they’re so carefully crafted–so I reread a few of his columns in More Baths Less Talking to try to figure it out and then finally, finally, I settled down to Part 2 of Code Name Verity.

I know why it took me so long to settle back into the book today: I didn’t actually want to finish it. It’s one of those books that’s so good, you don’t want it to end. You want to keep living in that book because you know that no other book is ever going to be as good.

With Code Name Verity, that’s complicated by the fact that it’s a huge HUGE page-turner. It’s also the kind of book that will keep you up way past your bedtime reading.

It really is best, I think, to come to the novel with very little knowledge of the characters or the plot (though it’s also not very hard to figure out quite early on that all is not as it seems in Julie’s narrative). All I knew was that it was set in World War II and featured a girl pilot. (If you want to know more but not have anything given away, read Leila’s awesome review at Kirkus.) It’s a twisty, turny story where much of the pleasure is in the unfolding of a story that’s never quite what it seems. In Julie, we have an unreliable narrator who is actually always telling the truth–at least the truth that matters. The ending is absolutely heartbreaking, but still very satisfying and somehow right.

I loved so many things about this book. The deep friendship at its core, the two main characters, the expertly crafted structure, the language. Although the story really couldn’t be more different, something about this book, perhaps the voice of Julie, our narrator for Part I, reminded me very much of two of my favorite novels, I Capture the Castle and The Brontes Went to Woolworths. I’ve fallen in love with Julie and Maddie just as I fell in love with Cassandra in I Capture the Castle and Deirdre in The Brontes Went to Woolworths.

Of course the trouble with reading such a perfect book is that it sort of puts you off books. I mean, what can you possibly choose to follow up the best book you’ve ever read? Nothing is going to feel like the right book. But that’s okay. This is a problem I am comfortable living with today.

The one consolation is that I thought Code Name Verity was Elizabeth Wein’s first book, but it’s not! She has been publishing for twenty years (20 years! And I didn’t know it! Argh!) and has two series, and now I can get caught up on those while I wait for the companion novel to Code Name Verity to be published in September.

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