World War II YA Novels

code name verity


Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 352 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1423152194

During World War II a British spy is captured and held by the gestapo in France.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 14-18

5 out of 5 for quality

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2012; Agatha Award Nominee for YA, 2012; Edgar Award for YA, 2013; Printz Honor, 2013; Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor for Fiction, 2012; YALSA Best Fiction for YA (Top 10), 2013; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2013.

This is an exciting mystery, with confusing perspectives of two young women who work in the military in England during World War II. One is a spy, captured by the gestapo in France, and it is she who tells the story of their friendship. This is one of those books where the less said, the better. The writing is excellent, the tension holds, the mystery interesting all the way through. Also, I cried.

Other reading:

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

B for Buster by Iain Lawrence

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Author Website



Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Flash Point, 2012. 272 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1596434875

A nonfiction thrilling story of the development of the first atomic bomb.


Age Range 12-17

5 out of 5 for quality

National Book Award Nominee, 2012; Newbery Honor Book, 2012; ALA Notable book for middle readers, 2013; YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013; Silbert medal, 2013.

Bomb is an exceptional kind of nonfiction that draws the reader along to find out what happens next. It follows many narratives: spies working to undermine the German atomic program, scientists working in the United States building the bomb, and spies in the US sending secrets of these weapons to the USSR. Each storyline looks at the different historical figures who worked on the frontlines of science and espionage. Slowly the story develops as the bomb develops; the writing is clear and the science behind the work explained in enough detail for the reader to understand some of the problems, success and turmoil that surrounded this project. Amidst all the discussion of the bomb, Shenkin looks into the lives and actions of the spies who worked on behalf of the USSR, and gives the context of why American scientists would choose to send plans of the atomic bomb to the country that would become America’s #1 enemy in the years following World War II.

This book was a surprise, as it was a subject matter I was wary of and I had concerns about the potential glorification of the atomic weapons program. I came away very impressed with the discussion of the perceived need for the development of the weapon as well as the horror of the weapon completion. Despite being a book intended for teens, Shenkin is willing to lay out all the hard choices and shades of grey that enter into discussions like this. I certainly came away with better insight and greater appreciation for the complexity of the atomic weapon issue.

Other books of interest:

Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr and Ronald Himler


Author Website