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Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein

I tried to read "Code Name Verity" right after it was published. There were tons of glowing reviews on Goodreads, everyone was talking about it. I prepared myself to be unbelievably impressed. I was not. I read about 20 pages and set the book aside. This year, AudioBookSync.com was offering the audiobook version of the story for free, so I decided to give it another shot. While I was not totally blown away, I am glad I picked it back up.  The narrators really do a fantastic job of making the story feel real, and by the end of it I was rather invested in both of them.  The way the story is written, when listening you feel like these two girls are talking right to you, making the overall audiobook experience much more enjoyable than reading the print version.

My problem with this book is the format of the first 75%. Julie, a spy, has been captured by the Nazis and has made the choice to cooperate with her captors. She is divulging information to them in the form of a type of journal. This is perfectly fine, and normally I would totally eat this kind of thing up. The issue comes from the fact that Julie alternates between telling stories in the past about herself in the third person (yes, I know, it is confusing even to read that explanation), and info-dumping huge amounts of historical information about planes and such. While the stories themselves are mostly interesting, many of them drag due to over-description. The best parts of this section of the book were the details we are given about Julie's captivity--her interactions with fellow prisoners and the Nazis, speculation about the fate of her friend, etc. Unfortunately, these tidbits are few and far between. I did, however, really like Julie as a character. Her spunk and cunning are absolutely magnificent. I just wish her written confession had been delivered in a different way.

The second part of the book is told from the point of view of Julie's friend Maddie, and I enjoyed it immensely. While Julie's situation might have been more exciting, the way Maddie's experiences are delivered was much more suited to my tastes. I particularly liked the cross-over of characters which had been introduced in the first half of the book in Julie's written notes. Having two separate characters examine and react to the same people was really interesting and showcased the similarities and differences between Maddie and Julie rather well. The ultimate fates of both Julie and Maddie were totally unpredictable, but once I read them I can honestly say there seemed to be no other way it could end that would have been more fitting for either of them.

The really impressive part of this book for me was its historical accuracy. It is incredibly immersive, particularly with the audiobook version, and the author has clearly done a fantastic job researching the time period. I could easily believe this was based on a true story, although the author reveals at the end of the book that it is not.

"Code Name Verity" is probably one of the best YA World War II novels I have ever read. The characters are well developed and introduced to the reader in a way that makes you feel immediately close to them, constantly rooting for their well-being. The setting is very well researched, to the point where it all feels like an actual historical account. My issue was with the way the first part of the book (Julie's) is written in a way that makes the reader feel a little disconnected from the story while still feeling connected to the narrator. This book is much better in audiobook form, as the narrators' voices add an extra layer of authenticity to the whole story. I'd recommend this to fans of historical fiction, particularly war novels, with strong female leads.