There aren't enough compliments to pay this book. It's classified as a YA novel, but like The Fault in our Stars this is a book that should defy genres and labels and age groups. This book is the work of a master wordsmith and story craftswoman. It really is that good. So, good and so complex of a story that I can't imagine how to begin to describe it.
This is a World War II book with a focus on two young women who give their all to their country and for each other. "Verity" has been captured after the plane she's in crashes in Nazi occupied France. She is taken to an old hotel that has been converted to a prison. In an effort to keep the torture to a minimum, she talks. In an effort to stay alive, she tells her story, writing it out day after day on whatever paper her Nazi captors provide her with. She knows that when she's given them what they want, they will either kill her outright (her preference) or they will send her to a concentration camp, where she will die nameless after who knows how much suffering. She hears her fellow inmates being tortured and refusing to give any information. They call her names when they see her, but she is beyond caring.
Verity spins the tale of how she met Maddie, her friend and the pilot who flew her into France. Maddie comes from a very different world than the refined Verity's roots, but the two meet and become fast friends. Maddie has amazing mechanical skills and love and aptitude for machinery. She was made for speed and flight and her abilities are soon noticed after finding herself in the right place at the right time. The two young ladies meet when they work together to convince a lost German pilot that he is landing at the airfield he's looking for, and not falling right into the enemy's hands. Maddie and Verity realize what a great team they make and they continue to come together to help one another and support one another in the war effort.
This book is just amazing. Wein spins out the story in an intricate web that the reader delights in traversing and often, dreads the discoveries. I don't think anyone can read this book and not have it haunt them long after they've closed the cover. The author truly transports her readers. We feel like we are there, the descriptive passages are harrowing and beautiful and realistic. The characters are complex and fascinating. The good guys are very likable, the bad guys are complicated and human. No two dimensional cardboard cutouts here, but fully fleshed out characters with skills and talents and flaws.
I recommend this book for everyone, upper middle grade readers and up. I think it would be too much for a younger, less mature reader to handle. The story is dark, though filled with little rays of light. It's a war story, there's no two ways about it. If you are faint of heart, read from between your fingers, skim any passages that are too hard to take, but do not miss out on the reading experience that is Code Name Verity.