I have a confession to make: I love reading kid lit. I always loved it, but my brief years teaching reading to pre-teens--which coincided with publication of the first book of Harry Potter--sealed the deal. Recent happy finds have included The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, Wildwood and The Mysterious Benedict Society.
At our small local bookshop works a wonderful woman named Tess. Among her myriad talents, she is the buyer for the children's department and an avid reader of kid lit. We have decided to form our own kid lit book club of two. First up, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It is classed as "young adult" (too intense for kid lit but not targeted for adult readers), but I didn't find anything too young about it. This book knocked my socks off.
Code Name Verity is very well-written historical fiction set during World War II. It tells the story of two friends, both young women, one of whom has been captured as a spy in France and the other was the pilot who flew her there. The woman who has been captured has succumbed to the horrific interrogation and has agreed to write out everything she knows, which she does in detailed, dramatic style rather than flat reporting. Her story forms the main text of the book. While the author doesn't go for shock factor by providing too much detail on the horrors of war and captivity, the shock and horror is felt. This book stressed me out, but I couldn't put it down. I had to abandon my preferred reading-before-bedtime with this one several chapters in (it gave me bad dreams!), but I stole time during the day to keep it going.
True to that "young adult" classification, I cannot recommend this book to anyone under 15, but I do strongly recommend it for women ages 15 and up. It is an intense, emotionally- and mentally-engaging story of two strong female characters whose unlikely friendship provides the backbone of the book. The worth of these women is not defined by men, though they are constantly surrounded by men given the nature of the story and the time period. There is no sappy romance to portray them as feminine cliches. They are powerful characters in a compelling story. If you pick it up, please let me know what you think!