Sunday, 15 September 2013

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (review)

Rating: 4.5/5 - A must read

Source: Library

Synopsis from GoodreadsTwo 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?

In this gripping, stimulating and totally absorbing novel, black and white are right and wrong.

Find out why I loved Noughts & Crosses after the cut!

I had been meaning to read this book for the longest of times but it seemed like everytime I picked it up from the library, something else would come along and I would forget all about it. Boy do I regret that now! Noughts & Crosses is one of those books that surprises you by how much they affect you and the way you see the world. I think the fact that I just moved to China -which means I am now an ethnic minority- gave me a lot to think about. Malorie Blackman expertly creates a world in which black-skinned Crosses dominate over the white-skinned Noughts. Even though the romance was a bit too Romeo & Juliet-y at times, the problems that Sephy and Callum face throughout the book felt real. I loved that Blackman was not apologetic in the way she shows how sometimes good intentions can be misguided and actually make situations worse. Every chapter is alternated between Sephy's and Callum's point of view, which makes the whole experience even more bittersweet. We can see how Sephy's intentions are sometimes misinterpreted by Callum and vice-versa and how that affects the way they see themselves and each other.

Their family backgrounds are also another strong point of this book. Sephy's always lived a priviledged life (private chauffeur, mansion and beach house included) and yet has to contend with a workaholic father, an alcoholic mother, and a sister that is anything but supportive. Callum on the other hand, lives in a tattered cottage with his loving parents, mentally frail older sister and a brother who supports the Liberation Army (a guerilla-esque organised group that believes that the end justifies the means).  As much as Callum loves Sephy, he also cannot help resenting how easy life has been for her based on her wealth and also on her social status. The connection between them both is a pivotal point of this first installment which is discussed in detail throughout the book and with a series of different reactions and interpretations. 

All in all, I think Malorie Blackman excels at making the reader consider and think about issues that are often left unsaid. It is a well thought-out story that stays with you forever and I cannot wait to read its sequel Knife Edge. I kept listening to Nina Simone while reading this (especially Mississipi Goddam) which definitively helped set the mood. One last thing though; if you expect a happy ending this might not be the book for you.

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