Code Name Verity by Elisabeth Wein

code-name-verity

Hyperion, 2012

Maddie’s a wiz with an engine. She’s proved it with the motorbike her granddad gave her for her birthday, but her focus on motorbikes quickly changes in 1938 when a young noblewoman crash lands her Puss Moth airplane in a pasture near Maddie’s home. The chance meeting leads to an opportunity for Maddie to learn to fly, which she continues until the war begins in earnest. But the war brings unusual opportunities for women both in work and friendship. Code Name Verity is the story of two such women, women thrown together by the war who build a strong and enduring friendship.

When I saw this title on the library shelf, I remembered that the book had caused a fair amount of buzz when it came out. I’d never followed the buzz into detail. Perhaps all I’d seen was on Twitter, and the cover, which looks like it’s about torture. Which, to be fair, is an important part of the story, but I’m hesitant to read books about torture, strange for someone who devours mysteries and thrillers and books about World War II, I know. But be still my heart, the other things this book has – England, Scotland, World War II, codes, women pilots, Special Operations Executive spies, the Moon Squadron and a fabulous friendship between two women. How could I have waited four years to read this book?

I spent a good part of last weekend engrossed in its pages. I found Code Name Verity to be extremely well researched, and I’ve read a lot about WWII and Special Operations Executive in the past years. I found it an utterly gripping story. The suspense drew me in; trying to piece together the story and the story beneath the words kept me riveted; and the personal relationships in the book kept me satisfied. This book will appeal to so many different types of readers.

I won’t chance spoiling the plot by revealing more, but I will recommend this book for personal reading, classrooms, and libraries. I’ll be adding Code Name Verity to my select private library. And next time I anticipate a quiet weekend, I’ll search out Rose Under Fire, another World War II book from Elizabeth Wein. I’ll let you know what I think.

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

Sourcebooks, Inc., 2015

When Allie’s sister Leah commits suicide, Allie is devastated—who wouldn’t be? But Allie takes the death especially hard because Leah and Allie had made promises, in fact, they had a suicide pact. Now Allie is utterly bereft and can’t understand why Leah would go without taking her adoring younger sister with her. With her parents a mess and all the usual high school confusions with friends, enemies, and loyalties—not to mention the pressures of getting into college—will she ever be able to put together the pieces of her sister’s last days? And what about her own shattered life? Can she put it back together again?

Stacie Ramey does a masterful job of presenting Allie’s myriad of emotions in an incredibly turbulent time. The Sister Pact is a ride through dark days, rays of hope, and the return to despair. Allie is making hard decisions in every aspect of her life. Her decisions are often bad ones, mistakes that anyone might make as a teenager, but most especially a grieving one. And Allie seems to be the last one to know that despite it all, she is strong, stronger than her sister ever was.

I loved this book for the unshirking portrayal of Allie’s pain, and that of the people around her. I loved it for the realistic ways the teenagers failed one another and tried to save one another. It is a book I would have loved as a teen because the story gives the reader a chance to examine each decision, each emotion, each solution with Allie and evaluate whether that choice would work for them. It left me cheering for Allie and I think it’ll leave you cheering, too.

I received a free electronic advance reader copy of The Sister Pact from Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone GapBalzer and Bray/Harper Collins, 2015.

Rosa has disappeared and no one in the small community of Bone Gap will believe him when Finn says she was taken against her will, not even his brother Sean, who was in love with Rosa. Finn is determined to find her and will withstand the local bullies and the long looks and speculation of the townspeople to persevere.

This intriguing read keeps readers guessing as they attempt to distinguish the real from the fantastical in this world where the lines of reality and fantasy are blurred.

Laura Ruby’s characters engaged my sympathy as they navigated their complicated small-town lives, searching for love and a place to belong. An intriguing and heartwarming read.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Candlewick, 2013.

0763658596.medPiddy’s summer has been full of change: a changing body that everyone seems to notice, her best friend’s move away to Long Island, and her own move to a new apartment. Unfortunately, the new neighborhood requires changing schools. Piddy’s barely oriented to the huge building and new classes when she gets a message, “Yaqui Delgado wants to kiss your ass.” Everyone around her seems scared by this message, but Piddy’s just mystified. Who is Yaqui Delgado, and why would she want to hurt a girl she doesn’t even know?

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is an emotion-filled ride populated by interesting characters. The teenagers are confused and brave and mean and frightened in ever-changing and very realistic amounts. Their lives are full of the turmoil of navigating interpersonal relationships with adults and other teens. They’re helped, or hurt, by their financial situations and family ties. Piddy’s mother is confused by Piddy’s actions, haunted by her own past, and yet full of love for her only child.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I first read the title. It’s a great premise, but a premise alone does not make a novel. Meg Medina backed up her premise with a wonderful character and a strong plot. Piddy had me from chapter one and never let me go. I cheered her onward and read all the faster to find out what would happen. I hope that this book becomes a part of many, many middle school and high school libraries and public libraries, too. The problems are so true to adolescence—and life, and I think many readers will gain solace, strength, and hope from Piddy’s story.