“Code name Verity” (Verity #1) Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Hyperion. 339 p. (Includes a “Brief Bibliography.”)

CodeNameVerityThe story opens with Verity, a secret agent sent to Occupied France by the British, being held prisoner by the Gestapo during World War II. After being tortured for weeks, Verity struck a deal which allowed her to regain a modicum of civility but which also included having her write all she knew about the Royal Air Force (RAF) and her role with the British.

As Verity’s story unfolds we meet Maddie, a rare female pilot in the RAF who became Verity’s best friend. As their stories of bravery, friendship, and survival in the midst of fear and the unknown are revealed, readers will be hard pressed to keep their tears and emotions in check.

“Code Name Verity” won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, given by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). It also was listed on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list, and won numerous other awards. All are well deserved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.

“The Hidden Child” Camilla Lackberg

Rated 4 stars **** Fjallbacka #5. ebook. ARC. To be published May 1, 2014. Pegasus Books. (First published in Sweden as Tyskungen in 2007.)

TheHiddenChildErica Falck has just finished her maternity leave and is supposed to be working on her latest crime novel. Instead, she finds herself fascinated by her mother’s 60-year-old diaries and the discovery of a Nazi medal. Wanting to know more about what made her mother change from the fun-loving person described in the diaries into the unemotional and unloving person she knew, Erica decides to take the medal to Erik a local historian for further study.

Soon afterwards Erik is found brutally murdered, and Erica finds herself embroiled in a 60-year-old in which her mother was entangled. The diaries reveals names of a current Nazi sympathizer, the historian’s brother who survived years as a German POW, and a local woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. Each of them holds a part of these tangled threads, which soon leads to even greater mysteries and shocking truths for Erica and her detective husband to sort. Erica’s quest to find out more about her mother’s past will forever be tangled in her own future.

“The Hidden Child” uses multiple voices and viewpoints to untangle the mystery of Erik’s murder and the diaries. At first, the constant changing of voices between characters was a little disconcerting but as the story progressed it became vitally important to the storyline. Camilla Lackberg’s careful research into the historical importance Sweden played during World War II will also be an eye-opener.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

Rated 5 stars ***** Random House, 2010. 473 pp. (includes Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index)

I first heard Louis Zamperini’s story on a recent episode of Jay Leno. I listened to the somewhat frail, 95 year old elderly man tell of running in the 1936 Olympics, and recount some of what he faced as a POW in Japan during World War II. I was captivated, as was Leno, and immediately put the book on hold at my library. I just received it a couple of days ago and settled down to read it.

As one of the top runners of his era, Zamperini was on tap to break the 4 minute mile when World War II arrived. He entered the service as a bombadier for the Air Corps, and thus began the most horrific chapter of his life.

In great detail, and with much research, Hillenbrand tells the story of how Zamperini survived 47 days adrift in the ocean after his plane crashed only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a POW for over 2 1/2 yrs. Zamperini and other Americans experienced extreme duress, horrific conditions, torture, slavery, and starvation under the cruel fists of their Japanese captors.

Using primary sources including Zamperini’s war diary and archival materials, as well as period photographs, Hillenbrand helps readers see what was happening in his life and helps us to learn about the great sacrifices made by captured American GI’s during this tumultuous period in history.

As I write this, it is the day before the Fourth of July – a time to remember the cost of freedom over the years which allows us to maintain our status as free Americans. Reading “Unbroken” allows readers to experience anew the gratefulness we should feel towards those from The Greatest Generation. “Unbroken,” and Louis’ heartbreaking story, really touched me. I know it will do the same for others. You can also see his story on video, as broadcast during the 1998 Olympics.

Mature high schoolers, and Adult readers, will find Zamperini’s compelling story to be both educational, enriching and sobering.