Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reader Response: Code Name Verity Pt. 1

A free-form reader response to Code Name Verity for my Teen Materials class. This is the Historical Fiction title I picked from a list, as opposed to the one everyone in the class had to read.

** Spoilers everywhere! ** 

Chapter One

Nevermind about chapters. I flipped through just enough to see that there are chapter-ish entries by date at first, but by the end there aren't. Or I just missed them. I'm too worried about automatically reading a phrase in the text to look again. Since there's about 330 pages in the softcover edition with the cover art on the right, I'm going to break this down into whichever natural breaks are near multiples of 30 pages.

Pages 1-30ish

Despite the first line, I'm not buying into the protagonist being a coward if she's young enough to call herself a "girl" and has finally broken after days of torture. Convenient enough framing that she has agreed to write down her story for German intelligence...and for us, of course. The first impression I had was that she was nude before breaking. Elizabeth Wein lets most of another paragraph go by before qualifying that this girl is at least in her underwear. It's intended to be both cold and invasive for her, so it's not much of a mercy. We learn that she's British and a specialist in radio ("wireless") cryptography. Possibly a civilian expert sent to open a secure channel with the French resistance, considering there's a boy fitting that description being tortured nearby. Possibly, just possibly, this account is total bullshit and her capture is part of a disinformation plan. Three reasons I'm suspicious by the third page:
  1. The short quote before the first page is: "Passive resisters must understand that they are as important as saboteurs." Maybe she's an intellectual saboteur, intending (or intended by others) to break or mostly break.
  2. I'm reading what she wrote for her captors, not what she's thinking outside of that context. So far, anyway.
  3. The name of the book. Too opposite to be irrelevant!
This went from creepy torture suggestions to contemporary snark so fast. What? False note for me. Let's not have this please. Please?
"I am in the Special Operations Executive unit because I can speak French and German and am good at making up stories [....]"
a page later...
"I don't think I'll ever know how I ended up carrying her National Registration card and pilot's license instead of my own ID when you picked me up, but if I tell you about Maddie you'll understand why we flew here together."
Please, author Goddess, please intend for readers to assume this girl is Maddie and the surprise is that she really isn't and she really doesn't know how the IDs got swapped. If this is Maddie, I'm docking a star from my final rating.

Pages 31-60ish

Needling the guard who has to translate the account into German for her superior officer is mildly amusing, but I could use a change in tone soon. A lot of this early stuff is sketching WW2 history as it relates to the air force, which is mildly interesting.

Pages 61-90ish

Oh. Page 84-85 made it too obvious by having two underlined sentences in quick succession. I would have noticed fine with just one because the underlined sentence on page 62 was also intelligence on where the narrator is being held. One page before that, the circle around the note that "RED is Engel's color" is probably the real first note to whomever else is reading these things, or it's a RED herring.

I like the cover I have on this edition of the book. Heavy red bicycles leaning against a stone wall is a nice reference to the bike ride of the two friends seen in this part of the book.

I finally figured out what's bugging me so much from the start. There's a lot of torture talk, yet the protagonist is only selling me on the idea that she's afraid of the promised execution of having kerosine poured down her throat and lit on fire. She's not selling me on the horror of hearing, and watching, and feeling all of the other torture going on. I could get defiantly trying to make light of it, but she's doing a little too good of a job. I would rather see the torture stuff toned down. I suppose the other fix would be to see her agony and fear turned up, but that's not my preference.

No comments:

Post a Comment