Code Name: Verity is one of the best books I've read this year. I expected it to be excellent, since Wein is such a good writer and the author of several other favorite books of mine, but it surpassed my expectations.

The novel is best-read knowing as little as possible about it, since it goes in a number of unexpected but logical directions, so I will confine my description to what you learn within the first 20 or so pages:

The book is in the form of a confession written by a captured British spy during WWII. The spy is a young woman who parachuted into France after her plane crashed. Her best friend, Maddie, was the pilot, and was killed in the crash. The spy is being held prisoner and tortured by the Gestapo; to play out the remaining time she has left, buy herself an easier death, and to memorialize her best friend, she has agreed to give up information in exchange for being allowed to write her confession at book length, and to tell the entire story of how everything came to pass.

I don't think it's spoilery to say that the reliability of the narrator is questionable; that's inherent in the set-up. But how she's unreliable, how she's reliable, and why is both fun to unravel and, like the rest of the story, moving and heartbreaking. This is that rare thing, a story of female friendship as intense as any other sort of love. It's extremely well-written, suspenseful, meticulously researched, and cleverly plotted.

As you can predict if you've read any of Wein's other books, the characters are great and it's extremely, extremely emotionally intense. There are no graphic details, but the psychological depiction of what it feels like to be tortured and helpless - and to hold on to whatever you can of your power and self under circumstances where that feels impossible - is one of the most realistic I've ever read. I would not schedule any important meetings or dates or anything where you need to be emotionally together and focused immediately after finishing this book. It's terrific, not depressing, a book I'm sure I will re-read. But like I said... intense.

Also, female friendship! Girl pilots! Girl spies! Intrigue! War! And even humor and wit, which is certainly needed.

I don't usually make award predictions, but I'm going to throw my hat in the ring for this one: Code Name Verity is going to win the Newbery Medal. You heard it here first.

Code Name Verity

Please do not put spoilers in comments. If enough of you have already read it to make a discussion possible and you'd like to have a spoilery discussion, please say so in comments, and I'll open a separate spoiler post later.

Wein's other books form a sequence which is ideally read in order. However, I'll mark good starting points.

The Winter Prince. An intense, unconventional Arthurian retelling, also with an unusual narrative structure: a letter from Medraut (Mordred) to his aunt, Morgause. This gives Arthur two legitimate children, a son, Lleu, and a daughter, Goewin. It's mostly about the relationship between Medraut and Lleu, but Goewin is a very interesting character. Especially good depictions of PTSD and healing from trauma.

A Coalition of Lions (Arthurian Sequence, Book 2). After the battle of Camlann, Goewin ends up in Aksum (ancient Ethiopia.) Works as a bridge between the first book and the next sequence, but not as strong on its own as the rest of the series.

The Sunbird. If you don't need to know the details of everything that went down previously, you could start here with the knowledge that Medraut went to Aksum and had a son, Telemakos, with an Aksumite woman. Very good, but warning for child harm: Telemakos is very young and endures some very bad things. (Not sexual abuse.)

The Lion Hunter (The Mark of Solomon) and The Empty Kingdom (Mark of Solomon Book Two). One book in two volumes. Telemakos, now a teenager, is still suffering from the aftereffects of his spy mission in the last book. But, of course, the reward for a difficult job well-done is another difficult job. You could start here, too, if you don't mind not knowing the exact details of what went down. Fantastic, well-written, atmospheric, well-characterized story. Yet another excellent depiction of trauma and healing. Again, extremely intense, but easier to take since he's no longer a child. Try not to get spoiled for anything in this - don't even read the cover copy.
rachelmanija: (Engaged!)
( Jun. 7th, 2012 12:22 pm)
Can anyone who keeps up with recent YA novels check my current list of LGBTQ YA sf and fantasy and see if I've missed anything that's come out recently?

PLEASE READ THE CRITERIA AT THE TOP OF THE LINKED POST BEFORE MAKING SUGGESTIONS:

- Vanyel was not published as YA. Neither were Diane Duane's "Door" books.

- Tom and Carl (and Dumbledore) are not identified as gay within the text.

- Sf and fantasy only!

- The book must be available now, not forthcoming at some later date.

- The list is intended as a COMPLETE LIST OF EVERYTHING THAT IS OUT THERE, not a list of non-offensive books. It does not express opinions on the quality, authenticity, or positivity of the portrayals of the characters in the books. Please use your own judgment in deciding which books you wish to support.
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