Reviewed by Maggie: August 1, 2012
Published May 15, 2012 by Hyperion Books for Children
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Do you remember when The English Patient came out? Or rather, do you remember when the Seinfeld episode about The English Patient came out? (Elaine goes to see it and HATES it, and is either shunned or dragged back to the theater to rewatch because everyone else loves it. She ends up getting sent to Tunisia by her boss, J. Peterman, because the movie was filmed there. Cameo by Holly the waitress/witch from True Blood playing a waitress.)
I'm usually Elaine in these situations, so I worried a little bit after reading glowing review after glowing review of Code Name Verity. However, this book held my attention from the beginning, and I want to send all the Elaines to Ormaie for inspiration.*
Something that I see authors and filmmakers struggle with is how to portray a strong, kick-ass female who can hang with the boys and still retain her femininity. One way is to sexualize them a la Angelina Jolie, and another way is to claim they are the fiercest assassin of all time and then have them fawn over pretty dresses. See, she's tough but girly! Yes, I read Throne of Glass just before Code Name Verity. Elizabeth Wein, however, makes it look so simple with her portrayal of Queenie. Little details like neatly arranged hairpins and well maintained fingernails say so much more than a ball gown, and it keeps you within the context of the story.
Speaking of the story, it's set during World War II when most of the men are off fighting. Still, given the current state of YA, I fully expected a love triangle to somehow get shoehorned in. I did get a love story, but not the one I dreaded/expected.
"It's like being in love, discovering your best friend."The friendship between Queenie and Maddie, two people from different backgrounds who wouldn't have met under ordinary circumstances, is one that I loved reading. It's the bond between two soldiers who contribute to the war effort in their different ways, whether it's aviation or language proficiency. The story jumps from present to past, but I loved seeing how their relationship evolved. One discussion that struck a nerve with me was when early in their friendship, they talk about their fears. In your 20s, the looming milestone is 30. When people asked me what I was going to do for 30, I would say, "Ugh, kill myself!" It's the vanity and arrogance of youth, of privilege, of safety. Queenie is the same, until that privilege is no longer in her control. She says,
"I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can't believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old."Queenie is one of my favorite characters ever, up there with Evanjalin from Finnikin of the Rock. Her intelligence and boldness comes through the page, and Wein's writing exemplifies the principle of "show, don't tell." I loved this story of war, camaraderie, and sacrifice. I loved Queenie's mother, who left the windows open in her house in the hope that her children would be home soon, because this is also a story about faith. Queenie and Maddie have to have faith in each other and faith in the strangers on whose help they depend. This was one of my favorite books of 2012, and one I highly recommend. I have told the truth.
Rating: 5/5 stars.
*No Elaines were harmed in the writing of this review.