Firstly, go get a copy of this book: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Available at all good bookstores (most likely in the YA section) and Kobo, Kindle, Nook etc – so you have no excuse. Now, read on…
Book recommendations are very tricky things. It can go oh so very wrong. So very, very wrong. Which is why there are very few people (three) whose opinion I trust wholeheartedly. We are on the same book wavelength, if you will, and I know if they tell me a book is good, it will be. To work properly, reviews and recommendations need trust between the parties. Need experience. A shared reading history. That bizarre alchemy of taste and preference.
Appearences to the contrary, I am pretty picky with what I read. I’ll try most things once, but it takes quite a bit to turn me into a fan of a book/author and willing to reread a title, and even more to make me tell people about it. It is not a hard and fast rule, but I will only write a review/tell people about a book if it is 1) so awful they must avoid at all costs or 2) so brilliant they MUST READ IT NOW. Often, if a book is in category 2, I will go so far as to buy copies as gifts, or thrust them at unsuspecting acquaintences.
Which brings me to twitter recommendations and the hype that often surrounds new releases. Simply, I ignore pretty much all of it. Most of the recommendations and reviews are from people I don’t know. Have been, most likely, prompted by hard working marketing/publicity people. How do I know I will like what they will like? I don’t frequent book review sites and blogs, so I haven’t built up a track record with any of these people. It is just not the way I work.
I digress. What you need to take from the ramble above is that I am very skeptical about most reviews and recommendations I hear. And that when I tell you about a book, I am genuinely enthused.
There was something about what I was hearing about the following book that caught my eye. One blogger who I pretty much trust raved about it. Then editors who I trust professionally and who I like personally started in. And then some authors who I again respect (adult authors as well, not just YA, indicating good crossover appeal) said they’d enjoyed it. And I started to listen. Working in the industry as long as I have has given me a pretty healthy disrespect for most promotional links and hype. Getting the word out about a book is one thing. Getting that word self-perpetuating and growing is a whole different kettle of fish. Crossing over to get the attention and reviews of people who read for a living, so don’t have time to read bad books for enjoyment, is just… Rare. And made me take a chance. Not enough of a chance to buy a copy, but enough to reserve it at the library. (And the decently long waiting list there was also a good sign).
I picked the book up Sunday morning, and with only two breaks for more tea and an episode of Big Bang Theory to decompress in the middle, I finished it by Sunday dinner time. A feat accompanyied by floods of tears. I don’t want to give the book away but it is gripping, harrowing, moving, thrilling, fascinating (I already knew most of the history, but it is lain out so beautifully), and heart breaking. And uplifiting. Possible to read on many levels, from a simple adventure story set among the airfields and espionage games of WWII, to an exploration of friendship, early feminism, loss, the terrors of war, the depths – and heights – humans are capable of. It is all there.
There are a few bits I might have done a little differently, but they are teeny. On a reread there may be more bits which catch my attention, but again – they do not detract from an amazing book. The characters will live with me for a long while yet. I applaud Elizabeth Wein for not taking an easy, or obvious, way out of the various situations. The various reveals of crucial plot points are well done. Possibly not the most sophisticated, but you have to remember this is not a John Le Carre spy novel here. Plus, most audiences – especially the target one! – won’t be as hyper critical as me, so my tiny niggles are just that. Tiny niggles, and fun things I hope to discuss in great depth with people.
This is a book I would have given my left arm to have crossed my desk when that was part of my job. This would have been me. I don’t often cry at books (films are another matter), but this one had me sobbing and drenching more than a few tissues. And smiling. Sometimes at the same time.
All in all a good book. Go, read it. And tell me what you thought – y’all should know by now that there are few things I love more than a good
argument discussion about a book.
P.S. It turns out, when I got to the end of the book, that the author has had worked picked up by Sharyn November. This is actually not a surprise.