Review: Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Blurb: Sephy is a Cross: she lives a life of privilege and power. But she’s lonely, and burns with injustice at the world she sees around her. Callum is a nought: he’s considered to be less than nothing – a blanker, there to serve Crosses – but he dreams of a better life. They’ve been friends since they were children, and they both know that’s as far as it can ever go. Noughts and Crosses are fated to be bitter enemies – love is out of the question. Then, in spite of a world that is fiercely against them, these star-crossed lovers choose each other. But this is a love story that will lead both of them into terrible danger . . . and which will have shocking repercussions for generations to come.

Before I started Noughts and Crosses, I felt as if I was in somewhat of a reading slump. Sure, I’d been reading regularly but I’d had a couple of 2 star ratings back to back and hadn’t read something I wanted to devour in a couple of sittings for what felt like ages. Luckily, Noughts and Crosses changed all of that and I could not put it down, finishing the entire story in two days. Without my having to work, I definitely think it would have been a one-sitting book.

The book was written in 2001 and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it until very recently. I borrowed it from a friend, who’s recently bought the entire 5-book series (yay for me!) and she advised me that I’d love it – turns out she knows my reading taste very well. Noughts and Crosses is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and I’m expecting it to be a real contender for my ‘Book of the Year’ at the end of 2021.

In its simplest form, the book is a dystopian tale of two star-crossed lovers, driven apart by their races. Callum and Sephy’s stark differences in lifestyles, and the fact that they belong to different races in a world not ready for integration, forces them down separate paths, yet their journeys interlink because the two simply can’t stay away from each other.

The messaging throughout the book is powerful and essential, but it’s not always straight-forward. The characters are perfectly layered, to the point where I was completely perplexed by some of their actions, but I think that’s exactly how the author wanted the reader to feel. Blackman created an entire world where the lines are blurred for everybody, so doing the “right thing” is both extremely difficult and, up to a point, subjective. The characters all have darkness inside them as a result of the world they live in, which makes them so engrossing. Nobody is ensconced in their lives, not even Sephy’s extremely privileged parents.

The sense of injustice and discrimination faced by Callum throughout the novel really resonated with me and he was my favourite character. It’s a story that needs to continue being told – privileged people are given so many more opportunities that their underprivileged counterparts – but Blackman is successful in putting a new and varying twist on the story, making it feel unique and very contemporary. The novel was written 20 years before I read it, yet felt like it could have been released yesterday.

Kudos to the author for committing to a shocking, yet extremely honest ending. This was a ballsy move but one that best rounded off the true message of the book – an utter triumph!

Noughts and Crosses should be essential reading and deserves all the praise it has received over the years. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and would highly recommend it to everybody – young and older adults alike.

Goodreads Rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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