What’s it all about?:
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 did I think?:
I am ashamed to say that even though Malorie Blackman is our Children’s Laureate in the UK until 2015, this is the first of her books I have read. She first came on my radar earlier this year with all the buzz around the first Young Adult Literary Convention which she organised and I attended and had a really great time. I’m happy to say that I’ve now been bitten by the Blackman bug as this book was truly fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the series. The novel is set in a world where individuals are divided into two classes on the basis of their skin colour. The Crosses are the elite, ruling class and are dark-skinned and the Noughts (or “no colour”) are the white subservient class who at one time, were slaves to the Crosses. Slavery has been abolished, but racial prejudice still runs high. The Crosses get the top jobs, the best pay etc whereas the Crosses tend to do more menial labours that require little/no education. It is only recently that Noughts have started allowing Crosses to enter their system for a better schooling yet there are no guarantees that they will be employed, especially if the employer is a Cross.
Our two main characters are Sephy and Callum who have been inseparable best friends since childhood even though Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. As they continue to grow up their feelings for each other change and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, this coincides with both teenagers becoming more aware of the differences between them and a heightened racial prejudice being reported in the media. For example, the idea of a Nought and a Cross becoming a couple is seen as despicable in most quarters. Furthermore, Callum who has been accepted to a high class Cross school, is in the obvious minority and suffers from physical attacks and taunts on a daily basis, sometimes shockingly, from the teachers. Fed up with being a second class citizen, Callum does not know where to turn and even Sephy cannot fully understand what he is going through, being a rich Cross who is chauffeur-driven to school due to her father being a rising and popular politician. Callum’s brother has decided to channel his hatred in a different manner – by joining the Liberation Militia, a Nought group fighting back against racial prejudice, but often in violent and almost terrorist ways. Callum has never condoned violence and is filled with hatred for what his brother does, but during his day to day life, he is becoming more isolated and is distancing himself from Sephy, afraid of what will happen if their two worlds collide. Sephy herself becomes increasingly desperate, not knowing how to reach out to Callum but is certain that they are meant to be together.
This was such a powerful book that affected me on so many levels. It’s almost like a modern day or dystopian Romeo and Juliet love story – ah, the star crossed lovers that can’t be together! Malorie Blackman has put her own magical spin on it however with the main theme being racial prejudice, that is just as heart-breaking and passionate as Shakespeare’s original story. I don’t think she had any motive in turning things round so that it was dark-skinned individuals who had the upper hand. In fact, I think she was making a general statement that racial prejudice of any kind against any person of any colour is fundamentally wrong and should not be tolerated. Sadly, there are still some deluded individuals out there who can’t quite understand this… Anyway, I absolutely loved the characters, the excitement of the plot, the suspense element and the (my mouth is gaping wide open right now) ending. This is a series with so much potential and from a talented author such as Malorie Blackman, I think it’s going to go really, really far.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):