Review of Audiobook Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

by Elizabeth Wein
read by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

Bolinda Audio, 2012. Unabridged. 10 hours 9 minutes on 9 compact discs.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #1 Teen Fiction
Starred Review

In my mind, Code Name Verity is easily the best book written in 2012. It’s not a pleasant story. It’s not even a happy story. But Wow! It blows you away.

I’m already thinking about how to booktalk the book. Spies. The Resistance. A British pilot stranded in France during World War II. Nazi interrogators. Think that will do it? It’s also a book about friendship.

I already reviewed the print version of the book, which I devoured as soon as it arrived via Amazon. But as soon as I finished, I knew I’d want to read it again. There are lots of things in the second part referred to in the beginning part, and I wanted to see if I would have a new perspective having already finished the book. Besides, I wanted to enjoy it again! So when the audio version was nominated for Capitol Choices, that seemed like a good excuse to reread the book in a different format.

And, Wow! Okay, I realize I’m not being even slightly eloquent. Let me simply say that this is an outstanding audio production of an outstanding story. They got someone from Scotland to read Julie’s parts, and someone from England to read Maddie’s. And they were magnificent. It felt like I was really listening to the two friends talking about their wartime service and their friendship.

I still love this passage. I almost burst out crying in the car when it came up in the audiobook:

Then she hitched up her hair to its two-inch above-the-collar regulation point, swabbed her own tears and the grease and the concrete dust and the gunner’s blood from her cheeks with the back of her hand, and she was off running again, like the Red Queen.

It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.

I wouldn’t have thought there was a way to improve this book. But listening to Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell made me feel like I was listening to Julie and Maddie tell me their thoughts.

Now, I suppose I should add that there’s torture that happens in this book. It’s set during wartime, and it isn’t pretty. Julie and Maddie are adults, young ones, yes, but adults serving during wartime. So although Code Name Verity is published as a young adult book, “old” adults won’t feel the least bit like the book is too young for them. And this isn’t a YA book I’d want to give to the youngest teens, because the subject matter is deadly serious. This audiobook is wonderful for listening in the car, but I wouldn’t call it a “family” audiobook if there are young kids around.

But Wow. Code Name Verity is a story of wartime, yes, but it’s a beautiful one. The story of the friendship, of these amazing young women, far outshines the ugly details of wartime.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Cybils, Stand-outs, and My Reading Year

2012 was an exciting reading year for me.

It started off in January when I got to attend the Invitational William Morris Seminar in Dallas at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.

At the seminar, we learned from experienced members of ALSC’s book evaluation committees. They trained us how to look at books from an award committee’s perspective.

Of course, that experience made me want nothing more than to be part of a book evaluation committee. In March, I decided to join Capitol Choices, a DC-area group of children’s book lovers who choose a hundred outstanding children’s books each year. They meet monthly, and I learned so much from being part of this group — and was made aware of so many outstanding books published this year.

But the culmination of all this was getting to be on the Cybils Panel for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy. I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed this. Yes, it did take all my free time for the past three months. Yes, it was worth it. And today all the shortlists are announced!

Our list was hammered out with a whole lot of give and take. This is not the list I would have chosen on my own, but I think that makes it all the stronger, and gives it more broad appeal.

Glancing at the other shortlists, the thing that tickled me most was that the Easy Readers panel chose both Penny and Her Song and Penny and Her Doll. Yes!

And I encourage librarians and parents to use the Cybils shortlists as lists. In our panel, we strove for a certain amount of variety. In the first place, many different types of books are represented. But then each list gives you a nice variety of the best books published last year in that particular category. And the winners? Those will be announced on Valentine’s Day.

But what list would I have chosen myself? I’m glad you asked!

Because on January 1st, I also announce my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

You’ll see there’s a lot of overlap between the Cybils shortlist and my own Children’s Fiction: Science Fiction and Fantasy list and also my Teen Fiction list. (Titles that appeal to tweens are hard to place. If they have teen protagonists, I tend to put them in Teen Fiction, but some of those were placed in our Middle Grade group.) Of course this should come as no surprise.

But my Sonderbooks Stand-outs are carefully chosen with no criteria at all. I don’t consider literary merit or artistic value or child appeal. I simply remember back over the year and tell about which ones brought me the most enjoyment. These are my favorites, the books I loved most out of all the books I read this year. All this practice on award committees was fun, but I do find it refreshing to list the books I enjoyed without having to defend my choices. I loved these, okay?

My son asked what my very favorite book of the year was, and I have to go with Code Name Verity, my Teen Fiction #1 book.

You may think these are an awful lot of stand-outs. To put it in perspective, let me give you my stats for the year, as far as I was able to count them. These are the books I read in 2012:

Adult Fiction: 19 (A lot less this year, since I was reading so many new children’s and teen books)
Teen Fiction: 38
Children’s Fiction: 78 (Yes, this was all about the Cybils. Capitol Choices, too, though.)
Adult Nonfiction: 48
Children’s Nonfiction: 37
Picture Books: 45 (At least that’s the number I thought worth noting.)
Rereads (All genres): 15

Grand Total: 280 books. Not bad….

And my plans for next year? Last year, I presented my crazy elaborate reading plans, and then joining Capitol Choices rather threw them off. But I am not daunted! I love the system I worked out, which keeps me reading a variety of books. Here is my slightly modified plan for 2013:

First, I will alternate between books for Capitol Choices and other books.

When I’m reading the non-Capitol Choices book, I’ll go through these six types of books in order:
1. Reread a book
2. A book I own
3. A new library book
4. An award winner (like something from a Cybils shortlist)
5. A prepublication Advance Reader Copy
6. An older library book

Mind you, this doesn’t count nonfiction or picture books.

Of course, if I get on a Cybils committee again, I’ll just read Cybils books from October through December. (Whee!)

What can I say? I’m a list-maker and I love organizing my reading this way. I’ve already finished my first book in 2013, a Capitol Choices nominee, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, by Katherine Marsh, and next I plan to reread The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, in order to get ready to read the sequel…. Onward!