Study Guide

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity Introduction

Here's a shocker: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is a spy novel. Yeah, we know. Who else has code names besides spies, right?

In this book, just about everyone.

If you're hanging out in Nazi-occupied France in 1943, it's a good idea to keep your true identity secret. So everyone gets a code name, whether they're spies, pilots, farmers, or schoolgirls. In fact, everyone's sort of a spy, whether it's their official title or not. Information's just that precious.

Here's where Code Name Verity parts ways with the standard spy novel, though: when the book opens, the spy has already been caught. In fact, Part 1 is her confession to her captors, as British spy Verity breaks and tells her Nazi keepers everything she knows… Or does she? Is her mission a failure, or is she still in the process of completing it?

Code Name Verity was published in 2012 and won a Printz Honor Medal from the American Library Association for being one of the best young adult novels published in the United States the preceding year. It won that medal nearly seventy years after the activities of the Special Operations Executive (SOE)—Britain's World War II intelligence service—ended. Most of the characters who survive the novel would have been really old or long dead by then, though, so why do we still find the actions of World War II spies interesting?

Well, Shmoopsters, read on to find out.

What is Code Name Verity About and Why Should I Care?

The spying thing is only part of the appeal of this novel. Code Name Verity is a story for anyone who's ever had a best friend, lost a best friend, wished they had a best friend, or missed a best friend. In short, if you care at all about friends or friendship, there's something for you here.

The book centers on the relationship between Julie (code name Verity) and Maddie (code name Kittyhawk), two very different young women who become best friends in unlikely ways. Here are some reasons we love their friendship and wish they were our best friends, too:

  • They're from completely different social backgrounds—and it doesn't matter.
  • They take something terrible (war) and get something wonderful (each other) out of it.
  • They tell each other both their silly and their serious fears.
  • One of them is a spy and one of them is a pilot—in other words, they are both so cool.
  • They tell each other secrets that are in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
  • They work together, and they're still able to be best friends.
  • They worry about each other's relatives.
  • They risk their own lives to keep each other safe.
  • They can spend months apart and still be best friends.

The list could go on forever—just think of good qualities to have in a best friend, and they probably belong on this list. Either Maddie or Julie, and probably both, will have whatever qualities you most desire in a BFF going for her.

Code Name Verity Resources

Websites

Code Name Information
The author's official website for Code Name Verity.

Welcome to Wein's Website
Elizabeth Wein's favorite place to hang out on the web, complete with information about her books, her biography, and more.

The Real SOE Agents of Occupied France
Being an SOE agent really was quite dangerous—and lots of people really did die. Want to read about some real SOE agents deployed to France? Read their stories here.

Articles and Interviews

No Need to Get Huffy
An interview with Elizabeth Wein by the Huffington Post.

We Never Talk Carelessly About Books
This interview with Elizabeth Wein comes with lunch. Nom nom nom.

The Secrets Are Out
A few more writing tips and behind-the-scenes info bites from Elizabeth Wein.

Video

Are Those Air Raid Sirens We Hear?
The official U.K. book trailer for Code Name Verity.

The Printz and the Author
Elizabeth Wein discusses winning a Printz Honor Medal for Code Name Verity.

The Scottish Children's Book Awards
Elizabeth Wein reads a scene from Code Name Verity, a nominee for the Scottish Children's Book Awards.

Audio

Listen to that Privileged Accent
A sample of the audiobook.

Can You Hear Us Now?
A link to the audiobook on Audible.com.

Images

Our Heads Are In the Clouds
A Code Name Verity word cloud.

Are There Any Yanks Around?
The United States hardcover edition.

The Last Time I Saw the U.K...
The United Kingdom hardcover edition.

Back in the U.S.A.
The United States paperback edition.