Friday, October 10, 2014

Flashback Friday

Code Name Verity (Young Pilots series) by Elizabeth Wein. Disney Hyperion, 2012.

"I am utterly and completely damned. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do ..."  

"Verity" to her captor SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden (p. 5)."

Thus begins Wein's powerful YA novel about friendship, bravery, and survival set in WWII England and France.

A young British agent, code named "Verity," disappears after being shot down over Nazi-occupied France. Maddie, the plane's pilot and Verity's best friend, is rescued by British agents and local members of the French Resistance. Deeply distressed about Verity's disappearance, Maddie never gives up hope that her friend is out there somewhere ... and still alive.

Verity turns out to be a valuable Nazi prisoner and following some grueling torture sessions, she's given a choice: sell out and tell everything or face execution. Verity agrees to this and begins to walk a very thin, very dangerous line. Can she give the Nazis just enough information to keep herself alive while also documenting the story of her friendship with Maddie?  Von Linden finds the story compelling, but his superior grows impatient with the lack of results.

As bits and pieces of information surface about Verity's location, Maddie and the Resistance fighters devise a daring rescue plan ... but can they get to Verity in time?

Wein's dramatic and compelling novel is set in England and Europe and depicts how war and survival impact societal norms and blur distinctions between gender, race, class, and nationality,  The story is told from both women's POV, their heroic stories finally culminating on a French bridge in a plot twist that literally left me gasping out loud. Mature scenes (torture, inhumane treatment, and wartime violence) make this appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Code Name Verity is the winner of several awards and honors including  The Edgar Award, the ALA's Michael L. Printz Award (honor) for excellence in Young Adult Literature and is listed in the ALA's  Outstanding Books for the College Bound.

 Wein's web site  is a must see, a treasure trove of information and resources about the author and her books.  Teachers or book discussion groups should check out Disney Hyperion Books' teaching guide for this book as well as one for Rose Under Fire (see below), a companion novel in Wein's Young Pilot series. Each guide contains research and activities suggestions, discussion questions,  an author interview, and more. Also see Egmont Publishing's book trailer.

The Bolinda Publishing's audio version of this book was read by Christie Morven and Lucy Gaskell, talented readers who amazed me with their skills in bringing to life the many different characters-each with their own distinctive accent.

 Rose under Fire (Disney Hyperion, 2013) is Wein's companion novel to Code Name Verity and is set in WWII England and Germany. Young American Rose Justice enlists in Britain's Air Transport Auxiliary and is captured by the Germans while on a mission. She is sent to the infamous women's concentration camp,  Ravensbrück. There she is befriended by several women, including a Russian pilot, a French writer, and a "Ravensbrück rabbit," a small, but tough and tender survivor of the Nazi's cruel medical experiments on living people. The women band together to support, care for and protect each other ...but can they escape execution?  Rose under Fire won multiple awards including the Schneider Family Book Award. Visit Wein's web site for more information on Ravensbrück, the "Ravensbrück rabbits," women pilots and more.

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