Skip to content

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman #BookReview

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?

Title: Noughts and Crosses | Author: Malorie Blackman | Series: Noughts and Crosses #1 | Publisher: Corgi Children’s Books | Pub. Date: 15th January 2001 | Pages: 479 | ISBN: 9780552555708 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Starred Review: Yes | Source: Self-purchased

Page break indicator for Sci-Fi & Scary

Noughts and Crosses Review

Noughts and Crosses’ was first published in 2001 but it feels more relevant than ever in 2020. It’s a fascinating novel that’s legitimately hailed as a modern classic. Whilst it’s marketed as Young Adult it has all the punch and intelligence that you could want from a book. It’s gripping, politically astute, romantic and very, very memorable.

The story is an inter-racial romance between two teenagers – a black girl (Sephy) and a white boy (Callum). The twist is that the world it takes place in is one where blacks are in charge and whites are the persecuted minority. Malorie Blackman uses this backdrop to highlight racial inequalities in our own world and it’s a technique that works very well. Sometimes the things she sets her sights on are obvious – slimy politicians, teenage bullies, a biased judicial systems. Sometimes they are subtler – early on Callum’s face get grazed and the plaster he has to wear on the wound is brown.

The teenage romance plot is a tried and tested one and it works really well. It might not be desperately original, but it’s intensely readable and very moving at times. Callum and Sephy share narration duties and they come across as likeable and believable teenagers. They’re far from infallible, but that only makes them more credible. The splitting of the story between the two characters allows Blackman to explore white privilege as well as the harm of structural racism on minorities. The contrast is a stark one, and the fact that Sephy benefits from racism whilst not being racist is an important takeaway.

This is a book for younger readers, and that does show at times in the writing. Whilst it’s very readable and involving at a character level, it’s clearly a book with a message and Blackman never lets you forget it. That single-mindedness makes the book powerful and effective, but it does at times lack subtlety. When the message is this important though, maybe that’s no bad thing.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads(Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inKids Science FictionScience Fiction Book ReviewsStarred Reviews

Be First to Comment

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
%d bloggers like this: