About the book
Noughts and Crosses is the first book in the series of the same name by Malorie Blackman. The book was originally published in 2001 but the series has recently been repackaged. The book is 512 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross -- a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought -- a "colourless" member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that's as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don't mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum -- a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
What I thought
People had been telling me for quite a long time to read this series so when I got offered to review the whole series, I jumped at the chance.
Malorie Blackman turns racism on its head in Noughts and Crosses by having dark skinned people (Crosses) rule the country while white skinned people (noughts) are in the minority. Sephy and Callum come from opposite families but have been brought up together, as Callum’s mother works for Sephy’s family. When Callum’s mother loses her job though, it pulls him and Sephy apart, with everyone telling them that they can’t be friends anymore.
I really enjoyed how Blackman created a world which was so like what ours has been in the past but switched around the roles. Many things about this book makes you think about what life would be like if the roles had been reversed in the past. There is plenty explained about the past and the present, and how different things have an impact on everyone’s lives. One of the most important things in this book to me was showing that noughts were not allowed to go to the same school as Crosses. Noughts were only allowed to go to school up until the age of 14, with a select few finally being allowed to go to Cross schools. An education shouldn’t be kept from anyone and this had a huge impact on how some of the characters felt.
Both main characters, Sephy and Callum, while understanding how their world works, don’t understand why it cannot be changed. I loved the innocence of both characters as to begin with, all they wanted is to be able to stay friends without having to sneak around. When Callum is allowed to go to Sephy’s school, she gets so excited about spending more time with her best friend although that doesn’t last long. Callum knows that things won’t be easy for him at school and tries to explain to Sephy that they have to pretend not to know each other. I felt so sorry for the both of them for being forced into a terrible situation.
As the book goes on and Sephy and Callum grow older, and more away of how their world really works, their friendship is put to the test. Callum especially becomes a lot more away of the situation his family is in and how they will probably never grow to be anything or do anything good. Sephy, however, comes from a very well off family and her life couldn’t be much more different to Callum’s. Although this book is largely about friendship it is also about romance. Sephy and Callum have a very slow building relationship in the ways of romance but it made it all the more believable.
Noughts and Crosses is told from the points of view of both Sephy and Callum which means that you really get to understand both characters and to understand what they are feeling in certain places. They both have very distinct voices and voices that matter very much. Some parts of this book were quite hard to read due to the subject matter but overall, Noughts and Crosses is an important and emotional read. I can see why it is now being used in Secondary Schools.