|Picture from Goodreads|
Source: Won - New Edition 2012
Rating: 4.75 Stars
Spoilers: Not explicit
Callum is a nought - an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses. Sephy is a Cross - and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country. In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don't mix. But when Sephy and Callum's childhood friendship grows into passionate love, they're determined to find a way to be together. And then the bomb explodes...
In Short: Wow. Slow to start but enthralling and insanely emotional.
This book...deeply affected me. And at times, I resented that. I resented how much it was getting under my skin. I began with eyes rolling because of the oh-so-obvious premise and the fact that the black writer seemed to be indulging in wish-fulfilment by saying that it was the whites who'd been slaves - but I changed my mind during the novel, completely. I'd resented how uncomfortably true it was. Why? It's about a dystopic society, inverting the situation of blacks from around the 1960s, so that blacks are in the majority - and in control. But it's not like today, where in places like Ireland we, while noticing their 'differentness', do accept them. Whites can't go to good schools, be protected by the law or work their way up the career ladder, with most of them stuck in menial jobs serving black people.
To be completely honest, it disturbed me. It disturbed me. It shouldn't have, but it did. It made me realise that we've become completely desensitised to discrimination against blacks. The author is a black woman, and every time something bad happened to the white main character I flinched inwardly. It felt like a direct attack on me. So why wouldn't it have if the victim had been black? The idea of white slaves, even if it was in the past, just seemed so profoundly wrong. The history books were all in favour of blacks and didn't mention white inventors/explorers, and I saw how wrong that is. Starting the novel I thought I'd be bored silly of the straight inversion. Instead, it struck me to the core and really made me think. A comment was made by one of the Crosses with their opinion of the noughts, which really summed up the frightening aspect of this book: (paraphrasing) There's a reason they're called blankers, you know. Blank, white faces. Blank hearts. Blank minds. That's why we have to control them.'
Callum and Sephy were such real characters. It hurt badly to see Fate conspiring against them. Every time I saw Sephy's riches or Callum's dire situation, I had to remind myself that she was black and he was white. It was difficult to see it, and that I'll admit. I loved their relationship as I got to know it better. Having read and watched Romeo and Juliet, I could see the allusions to it, the point where things were scheduled to go wrong - and did, against my fervent wishes. That's a mark of a good book, that I'm made desperately wish for an outcome. I cared. Why is it that whenever I become emotionally invested in characters they're battered and tossed around until I can't stand it? I hoped against hope all through this novel that things would miraculously improve. And it stayed true to its course and broke my heart, taking everything it could of me with it. I couldn't bear to see how Callum's family was slowly ripped apart by the L.M., and it hurt when I saw how desperate his father and brother had become. After that night in the cell I had to watch in horror as everything spiralled out of control for Callum and Sephy. As the World Book Day novella 'Callum' was included (an alternate ending) I held out hope - and my hopes were dashed. But that's not to say that I didn't get an excellent read out of it, even while my emotions were being trainwrecked. You need a book like that once in a while.
Noughts and Crosses should have gotten five stars. I took off O.25 of a star because I couldn't connect to the story for a while. But as the narrative rushed towards the ending I was almost overwhelmed. Almost? Who am I kidding? The ending is tragic and emotional and meaningful and really, beyond words. I couldn't wait to review it because I knew that I would really feel what I'm saying. I'm left shaking my head and waiting for it to fully sink in. This is a book with a powerful impact, and it certainly showed on me.
Knife Edge, Checkmate and Double Cross are featuring prominently on my To Be Read list.
Author's Website (Malorie Blackman)