Though by no means a new book, Malorie Blackman’s Nought and Crosses is a great read and one which, having reread, I felt a desire to write about. So I shall.
Noughts and Crosses is a young adult book set in a world very similar yet vastly different to our own. The story follows Sephy, a young Cross girl of the ruling class, and Callum, a ‘colourless’ member of the Nought underclass. It is our world twisted and turned on its head, where black people rule the world and the whites are their recently freed slaves.
This is a very well-written, thought provoking story of two children growing up in a world they don’t understand. They are best friend who must keep their relationship secret, who cannot let the world know about the person they care about most. It is a perfect read for the non-reader – the chapters are short and concise, and being told from both the male and female point of view it appeals to both sexes.
I first read this book when I was around sixteen (I think). I devoured it in one, perhaps two, sittings and rode a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I raged at the unfairness of it all. Blackman is a wonderful author because she is not sentimental. So many authors love their characters too much to cause them real pain. Noughts and Crosses is full of pain that is real and believable, which makes it all the more heart wrenching. I don’t want to give too much away, but even when you think good will happen it doesn’t, by a whisper and hair’s breadth. I love this about the book.
I would recommend adults give this book a try as well. Though I struggled a lot with the first section the story gripped me the same way it did almost ten years ago. Writing from the point of view of a fourteen and fifteen year old the prose is simple and at times a little cliche, but then most teenagers are. Once the characters are older it becomes much more readable for an adult. Nevertheless, the themes of the books speak to all generations. It brings out the inequalities that are still rampant in our own society. One of the most poignant moments for me is still the moment a young nought girl says ‘they didn’t have any pink plasters’. At once I put down the book and thought. I have never seen a black plaster. Small things, but powerful all the same.
I read this book in two nights. Yes, it’s a young adult book but that’s still pretty impressive for me at the moment. I wanted to see how it ends (or remind myself, at least). I wanted desperately for everything to work out for the best. I wanted to see Callum and Sephy happy in their own little slice of Heaven. Blackman didn’t disappoint – it was awful and painful and soul destroying. I loved every second of it.
I’m personally debating whether or not to carry on with the series. A friend has told me they do not match up to the first instalment, but I still need to find out what happens. Perhaps after I’ve recovered a little from this one though.
Noughts and Crosses is available as both a paperback and downloadable ebook and is the first instalment in the Noughts and Crosses series.