Earlier this week one of the Minnesota History Players, Virginia Mae Hope, visited the library. The actress from the Minnesota Historical Society shared the story of this Minnesota native who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during WWII. Learning about the life of this brave woman reminded me of a wonderful book I read recently about a female WWII pilot in Great Britain, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Code Name Verity is a fictional teen book, but the story it tells is just as interesting as Virginia’s.
At its heart, Code Name Verity is a novel about the unlikely friendship between Maddie and “Verity”, two women from different backgrounds who get involved in the war effort in Britain as a pilot and a spy respectively. When the book begins, we learn that the two crash landed on a covert mission in Nazi-occupied France, where Verity has been captured as an enemy agent is giving her confession.
Verity’s confession is long, and under the auspices of giving up everything she remembers about the British war effort, she weaves in the story of her friendship with Maddie and the events leading to their crash.
I won’t write much more about the book, because I don’t want to give too much away. Both Maddie and Verity are incredibly well-developed female characters. They are brave, intelligent, and complex, without seeing overly perfect or generalized (especially compare with some other YA heroines). Their friendship is believable and Wein doesn’t ruin her story with romance, or even worse, a love triangle.
The book is considered YA, but like its YA/WWII cousin, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, it’s really a book that I would easily recommend for teens or for adults. Wein doesn’t talk down to her audience or simplify her story. Maddie and Verity both have a sense of humor, so there are some great moments of levity mixed in with the sorrow. I’ll warn you; this isn’t a happy book. But, it is an engaging read and wonderful story.