Review: Carnegie Challenge – Codename: Verity

My fourth Carnegie challenge installment is Codename: Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I am in two minds about this book.

On one hand, the perspective annoyed me. One character writing as though she were another character, but herself inbetween, and then halfway through switching to that second character. This sort of stuff has always annoyed me. I understand why it’s done. At the end, when I found out it was a collection of written accounts (like how Frankenstein is the recollection of a story written into a letter, but actually a fictional book), that kind of aleviated the frustration a little bit.

I started to become annoyed with this sort of thing back at Uni when we had to read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses and Melvin Burgess’ Doing It. It feels like they’re doing it for the sole reason of letting you know the whole story, which I think would be less jarring if they just wrote it in 3rd person. If they could do it without doing it so cheaply as putting the character name at the top of each chapter to remind you who whose head your inside- if each character was so well portrayed that you didn’t have to be told who was talking, then maybe. I had an argument with my lecturer about this. I appreciate that I’m in a minority, but it’s something I feel very passionately about for some reason.

Wein created two very well voiced character though, who were so individual that you didn’t need to be told who was talking. She earnt my relucatant forgiveness by the end of the book. I would have been happy had it ended with the end of the first voice though (and there would have been less tears).

It pretty much destroyed me emotionally. I cried for hours afterwards. Probably second only to The Hunger Games in the list of literature which has made me cry. Joint with The Book Theif, I think. And I wasn’t expecting it either. There was just one sentence and suddenly I was sobbing my wee heart out like nobody’s business.

When I’m judging a book, it certainly gets bonus points for making me cry. I feel that it shows how well developed the characters and plot were that I could become so involved and dependent upon them. So I have to conclude that it was incredibly well written, which makes me feel undermined because I got so frequently annoyed at the techniques Wein used.

I would recommend it. The characters were entertaining, if a little too brave and bright to be realistic (even when they’re saying they’re not). The german interrogator was a fantastic asset to the plot, even though we only saw him through the eyes of other characters. If anything, I actually felt like he was the most real character in the whole novel.

Wein has a disclaimer at the end which, to paraphrase, says that she doesn’t intend her novels to be historically accurate, as long as they are historically plausible. Probably liked this sentence as much, if not more, than the rest of the book. This is to say, a lot!


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