Review: Code Name Verity

The best word I can think of it to describe Code Name Verity is: layered.

code-name-verityI know several people who loved this book from the beginning, so imagine how I felt when it took me a while to get into it. I felt alarmed, actually. I had just felt let-down by These Broken Stars (which I didn’t hate, but didn’t love either) and thought a well-loved WWII book was exactly what I needed. I was confused by the narration, as “Verity” wrote about her friend Maddie and her perspective, about things Maddie did when she wasn’t with her, and even giving names of people she doesn’t know and recording conversation. Was she really writing all this down? Why? How does she know all this? I was so distracted by it all. And then we read an exchange between two people working at the prison she’s at, one who explains to the other – and to me as well – how and why Verity is writing her account as she was.

So finally, something seemed to click for me. I still wasn’t falling in love with the narrative right away, or even Verity, but over time, I started to care a little more and more. Then I remember getting to the end of Part One, where we see a note about Verity’s fate –

WAIT?! That’s all you’re giving me! I wanted to scream. I could not believe it was the end of her story. Or so it seemed. So I started Part Two, where we get Maddie’s account.

And then things really started to click.

I could also relate to Maddie more. I’m not sure if it was because of her personality, because we already knew so much about her from Verity, or a combination of the two (that’s what I’m leaning towards), but Part Two was really when the story came alive for me. Maddie put together pieces from Verity’s initial story that you didn’t even know were missing. Everything suddenly had a double meaning. I was finally realized there was so much more to the story than met the eye.

I thought the novel ended perfectly, but I really wanted more about Maddie, and Jamie! Even though we don’t see a lot of him, I really liked him a lot and would love to read a book from his perspective! And even though it was so subtle, I loved the blooming relationship between them.

At the end, I was almost emotional. I actually had a hard time emotionally connecting with Verity, but Maddie connected enough dots for me to feel more engaged with both of them. Even still, I still felt a little more emotionally distant than I would have liked in a story about love, war, and loss. Because of this and the slow beginning, I didn’t feel the book earned a 5, but for being so beautifully crafted in complexity (which means it will definitely need to be re-read one day), I decided to go with 4.5.

4-5stars-editWhat are your thoughts on Code Name Verity? 

Content Advisory: Moderate language, including a couple of f-bombs. Torture is described somewhat but not in great detail. There is mention of rape and other sexual activities but nothing gratuitous. 

Advertisements

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is my Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

Seeing as I do write, while compiling this list I wondered: Why aren’t I writing these stories? And the answer is, I haven’t been so particularly inspired to yet. But who knows, maybe one day I will! But in the meantime, if someone else wants to write on of these stories, that’s be great because I would love to read them! This week’s list is in no particular order, and all these are YA story ideas unless otherwise specified.

1. WWII Historical Fiction Set in America

There’s been a fair share of WWII historical fiction lately, set in other countries: The Book Thief, Between Shades of Gray, Code Name Verity, etc. And I’m grateful for these, because for those of us who do live in America, sometimes we need to get outside of our USA bubble and see how the rest of the world sees things. But remember Molly from American Girl?

meet-mollyI’ve been interested in WWII history for a long time, so even as a girl I was fascinated by the story of a girl my age and how she coped with the war at home in America. I would absolutely love to see a YA story like this!

2. Story Set in Monaco

monte_carlo_casino_monacoOnce upon a time, I saw something about the country of Monaco on TV, and since then, I’ve been mildly curious about it. We see books set in France, Italy, Australia, etc., but what about Monaco? How’s life look like there? I actually wrote a short story about a teen American girl visiting Monaco when I was in high school, but I haven’t been able to find it and quite frankly, I knew very little about the country. I’d love to read the story from someone who knew what they were talking about.

3. A Little Women Retelling

little-women-retellIt’s no secret that I love Little Women. Because of this, I have attempted a couple different retellings, but neither of them have stuck for me yet, but we’ll see… maybe one day something will. (BTW, I will finish my Little Women movie dreamcast posts one day…). I love this story and want to see a truly justifiable retelling of it, either in a contemporary or futuristic setting. Also, bonus points if Jo and Laurie hook up this time. 🙂

4. Jane Austen Contemporary Retellings, a la Lizzie Bennet and Emma Approved

ja-retellingsBasically, I want to see stories very similar to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved as novels, and obviously more suited for that than the video format. I suppose they would be more New Adult, but I would want them to not be too focused on sexytimes, but rather stay true to the nature of Jane Austen’s stories. And I know there are Jane Austen retellings out there, but I would love for the same author to write six books based on Jane Austen’s six books and that would be in the same universe, and be as awesome as these Pemberley Digital videos. I would DEVOUR these books, so someone give them to me!

5. Retelling of Alice in Wonderland that Involves Traveling to Other Worlds/Dimensions

I came up with this one very randomly. I have nothing else to add, but I think it sounds awesome.

6. Set in Well-Known Cities That Aren’t LA/NYC/Chicago

I love big cities, but it seems the same ones get all the love. Why not more books in Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Nashville (though I think this one is rising in popularity… I just wish we could see more Nashville stories NOT involving country music), etc.? I’ll admit I don’t think much about where the story is set when I seek out a book, probably largely because I’m usually reading things set in the future, but if a book was set in Houston or Nashville (the two areas where I have spent the vast majority of my life) my interest would be at least piqued.

 7. Teens Who Work in a Comic Book Store and Go on Geeky Adventures

geek-costumesI think this one is self-explanatory, and would be so fun!

8. Teen Science Geniuses a la Fitz-Simmons

fitz-simmons2Fitz and Simmons are the two scientists on the show Agents of SHIELD, and they’re also my favorite characters from the show. They totally play off each other with their science facts and geeky quips and I want a book with a duo like them! But since I fail at science, I will not be writing it.

9. Teen Olympian Athlete

Eiskunstlauf: Tara Lipinski zeigt ihr WM-Gold

Was anyone else totally into Tara Lipinski, 1998 Olympic gold medalist?

As someone who has never been particularly good at sports, I have long been fascinated by the ability of Olympian athletes, and would love to read a YA book about a teen playing in the games, particularly a gymnast, a swimmer, or an ice skater. I would love to read a realistic look of what it takes to train for, qualify for, and be in the Olympics as a teen athlete.

10. Teens/Young Adults Flying in Space, a la the Red Squad from Star Trek

Red_SquadIn the Star Trek franchise, there are references to an elite group of cadets from Starfleet Academy called Red Squad who receive special and advanced training flying in space. In an episode of Deep Space Nine called “Valiant,” the Red Squad cadets were aboard the U.S.S. Valiant with an adult crew, when all the adult crew were killed in enemy fire and the cadets were forced to step up and take charge of the ship. It was a very interesting look on how a spaceship run by young people would work, how they would respond to having to answer to one another as officers, etc. Basically, I would love to see some of the ideas from this episode expounded on and explored in a book (something other than a Star Trek book). And I would love to hear the perspective of the specially trained teens about flying in space and their hopes for their future in a space career.

So what’s on your reading wishlist?

Review: Unbroken

unbroken

I don’t read much non-fiction, but I have been long interested in WWII history. Unfortunately, once I was finished taking history classes, it seemed I decided I was finished reading on it as well. I don’t think I was consciously thinking that, but keep in mind that it took me until last year to start reading for fun again. I asked for this book for my birthday and received it, but it took me a few months to get around to it because it was more intimidating that the young adult literature I had ready to read as well. But after hearing another high recommendation from a friend who doesn’t even care much for reading, I decided it was finally time to delve into it.

graphic-synopsisThe story focuses on a guy named Louie, who got in trouble a lot as a kid. That is, until his brother helps him focus his energy into running. Louie isn’t wild about running at first, but after a while, it consumes him. He beats high school records, gets a college scholarship, beats more records, and start setting his sights on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He makes it to the Olympics, though he does not medal, but he starts setting his sights once again for the 1940 Olympics.

But then war begins, and international turmoil causes the Olympics to be cancelled. Louie ends up joining the service. In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Louie was going to war. As an air serviceman, he was sent to Hawaii. He formed a bond with the men on his plane and other men in his camp, but it was a daily, pain-staking reality that many men would not return from their missions. And one day it was his plane that did not return. But Louie and two other men from his plane survived.

I don’t want to share too much more, because there is a lot to be said for going into this story blind. But I will say that after the plane crash survival, the story is all downhill for quite a while. Louie faces an extreme amount of hardship for the duration of the war.

graphic-thoughtsI knew this book was supposed to be amazing and have a hopeful ending, so I kept pushing through it. It was exhausting and grueling to read through all Louie’s trials, and Hillebrand does such a great job of putting you in Louie’s head and helping you understand the gravity of the situation. I like how she had not just his point-of-view though, but combines what he knows with what people on the outside knew then or what we know now from history, to paint a very descriptive picture that really defines the gravity of the situation. She seriously did her research. And then when he gets home and things seem to get better, things go wrong again.

But, in the end, there is hope and redemption. And it makes everything before it worth it, both for the reader and for Louie. It is emotional and amazing, and it made me respect our servicemen and women ten times more than I already did, especially my grandfather, who also fought in the Pacific during WWII. This is a book that I believe everyone should read (well, everyone about 18 and up I would say). It’s a story about the human spirit and history and how twisted man can become but also how forgiving man can be. It’s a story for everyone. If you haven’t read it, seriously, READ IT. And buy the printed version so you can get a good look at the great photographs scattered throughout.

graphic-quotable“If you will save me, I will serve you forever.” – Louie’s promise to God while he was lost at sea.

Have you read Unbroken? What are your thoughts? Have you read any other great WWII books I should add to my TBR list?