Monday, April 9, 2012

Code Name Verity

Sunrise was at 6:31, Sunset will be at 7:51.

It's been so long since it's been warm. It is supposed to be up in the high 60's today! It's sit out on the porch without a hoodie weather; it's take your book and your drink out to the stoop weather; it's open all the windows wide weather. The skies are blue, there is a haze way up where jets leave the opposite of contrails - there's a razor's slice through the haze, an emptiness where the jet has gone.

I'm heading into the second month of unemployment and I am patting myself on the back for getting up relatively early every day, working out, taking a shower and not getting back into my pajamas. I make the bed, pick up the stuff that needs to go somewhere else, and then eat a meal. And then the day has headed into the afternoon. I look for a job, I answer email, I look for a job, I look at facebook. And repeat.

The being unemployed part isn't so bad, it's the walking in circles part that gets me. I find myself getting up to go do something and then thinking, oh, not yet, I need to do this first, and turning around, forgetting what that was supposed to be. Going back to where I was, remembering, changing my mind and going back again. And repeat. It's hard to stay organized and focused when there's nothing obvious to pin it to.

So, I turn around one more time, grab a book off the pile, and eat lunch.

And, oh, the books!

I recently read Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, an amazingly adventurous story about two young women during WWII.

Best friends Maddie and Verity were shot down in German-occupied France. Verity is captured behind enemy lines and arrested.

She is imprisoned by the Gestapo and given the choice of confessing to everything, codes, airports, names, or being shot. She is only alive as long as she has something to confess to, so, slowly, day by day, Verity weaves her confession into the story of how she and Maddie became friends, hoping that someone might find her notes and know what happened to her.

Days pass in her prison as she writes herself one scrap piece of paper at a time closer to her death, vividly remembering how they met and how they trained to become spies and pilots. When she finally reaches the present, a different life and death struggle ensues.

I absolutely loved this book. Like Mal Peet's Tamar and Mary Ann Schaffer's Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Ms. Wein has written a book about a bit of WWII history that not everyone will be familiar with. She shows us how the people in the small towns and the countryside of England lived and worked during the time, really getting into the details of how civilians got involved in keeping their country safe. It's filled with worry, fear, airplane parts, radio transmissions, and the best descriptions of what an air raid is like. And all from a girl's point of view.

Verity's confession is often very difficult to read. It's written on music paper, prescription pads, scraps of what is available, and she reflects on where the Jewish composer and doctor are and what might have happened to them. She writes about her handler's abuse of her, the flicking of lit matches at her face, the torture she endures before she agrees to write her confession, soiling her panties, casual slaps and pinches and cigarette burns.

I think I liked Code Name Verity best because it isn't a book for girls about World War II. It's a book filled with adventure and war, bravery, friendship and death, love and indifference, big machines and air fights, it isn't a girl's book by any means with the "right ending for a jolly girl's adventure story". It's a book about young people doing amazing and daring things all while still having crushes and staying out past curfew. It's funny and harrowing and tear jerking.

Adults will love this book, girls will be inspired by it, and I think most boys, once they get started reading, will not be able to put it down.

Kiss me quick, Hardy!

(Ages 14 and up. Hyperion. Available May, 2012. $16.99.)

(No remuneration was received in exchange for the books mentioned in this blog. However, hardy thanks go out to Lauren Mayer for sharing Code Name Verity with me.)

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