There are lots of aspects of my job to love, but one is always the moment where a student tells me she read a book and really loved it–bonus points if she adds that she hasn’t felt this way in years, or ever, or if she used to like books much more but hasn’t loved one like this in a long time.
In recent years, my department chair has launched an expanded summer reading program at my school, and the most successful innovation was having a student committee choose an all-school read for the Upper School. This year, it was The Fault in Our Stars, which was hugely popular and inspired a lot of great bookish conversations around campus. Inspired, one of my colleagues and I started brainstorming about how to encourage our students to read more for pleasure during the school year, outside of what they are assigned, to build on this momentum. We decided to recommend books to our entire Upper School at one of our Morning Meetings, using book trailers and our own enthusiasm to create a sense of community around being excited about books. The first we chose was Eleanor & Park, and it was deeply gratifying to have students come up to me over the next few weeks talking about how much they had enjoyed it.
Just in time for spring break, this time we are going to promote Code Name Verity, and I’m so excited. This is a great book for teenage girls and adult readers alike: deeply researched historical elements, two strong female protagonists, a tightly plotted story that flips and turns like a stunt plane while still staying grounded in the story of a great and true friendship. The two narrators each get to tell half the story, and my only quibble is that both are so authentic and fascinating, I could have listened to them for their own books each (though the first voice is my favorite, by a small edge).
The story takes place in war-torn England and Occupied France during World War II, and follows two young women who pilot planes and go behind enemy lines in the service of their countries. One is caught and tortured by the Gestapo while the other searches for her, determined to rescue her and take her back to England. I can’t say too much more about the plot without giving too much away–it’s the type of novel where even using a character’s name gives away a delicious twist–but Wein manages to pull off the feat of keeping us enthralled by the complicated mystery she is spinning while also making us care deeply about the two central figures.
If you like historical fiction, if you like stories about friendship and adventure, if you like to be kept guessing and then feel the startled joy of discovery, “Code Name: Verity” is for you.