Friday, 17 June 2011

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

I’m going to start off by saying that I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to read Noughts and Crosses. I really should have known better, especially considering how brilliant I thought The Stuff of Nightmares and Boys Don’t Cry were. Blackman is truly a talented author.

And now onto the review: Noughts and Crosses is a daring novel, set in an alternate universe where black is right and white is wrong. Named ‘Crosses’ and ‘noughts’, the two live completely separate, opposite lives, similar to the South Africa apartheid. The inequality has been an accepted part of their society for many years, but it is slowly starting to change due to recent protests from the noughts – less than three dozen noughts are permitted into attending schools which were previously solely for the Cross children. Callum is one of the chosen few, but he finds fitting in difficult when he sticks out like a sore thumb and near enough everyone wants him out. Attending the same school as his best friend Sephy also proves to be a bad idea as it draws the two apart. They slowly rebuild their friendship which grows ever more passionate…that is until the bomb goes off and tears their world apart…

This novel is incredibly powerful; even if you don’t realise it when you’re reading, you sure will by the end – it forces you to think about the racial inequality that still exists in the world today by flip-reversing the ‘tradition’ of whites being the superior race. The impact is further increased when you do a little bit of research (or, say, revise for a history GCSE) and realise that many of the events, like the segregated schools were based on real events from history – take the Little Rock High School, which was deemed white-only until 1957 when ‘generously’ 9 African American students were permitted to attend; the governor however, disagreed and ordered the National Guard no less to prevent their entry to the school, which worked until the President sent in paratroopers to protect the students who were eventually smuggled in. Nevertheless, only one graduated due to the constant violence and racial abuse that they suffered daily.

The characters are realistic and you fully sympathise with their thoughts and actions; not only that but they make you laugh and cry in equal measures, which is always a sign of a truly fantastic book. Blackman writes with class and pace throughout, somehow sustaining your attention until the very last page, and even longer than that because these characters will stay in your mind for a lot longer than the duration of the book.
The plot too is sublime and will take you on a breath-taking rollercoaster of a journey with unexpected twists and a shocking ending that I was so not expecting and definitely left me wanting more!

A truly gripping, hard-hitting, thought-provoking page turner – if you haven’t already, I cannot recommend it enough; I won’t go as far as to say it’ll change your life as it’s ever so slightly cliché, but it will certainly alter your perspective. I’m aware that a lot of the books I’ve reviewed recently have received 5 stars (I’m probably too generous!) but this one truly deserves it, probably more than any book I’ve read so far:
[SYNOPSIS: 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. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Crosses schools...Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts unable to accept the injustices any longer, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum - a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger...]


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