Published on: 2008
Published by: Oxford University Press
Series: Noughts & Crosses #1
Genre: YA Romance
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Noughts and Crosses (Noughts and Crosses #1)
Knife Edge (Noughts and Crosses #2)
Checkmate (Noughts and Crosses #3)
Double Cross (Noughts and Crosses #4)
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?
I have chosen this book as my Valentines Day review as for me it is one of the best love stories ever written. The ultimate tale of forbidden love, it’s right up there with Romeo and Juliet, and will leave you so full with emotion that you feel like you might burst.
I first found this book in 2004, when I found one of my high school friends reading it one lunch time in the library. She always read the “different” types of books that were far from the girly “tween” books all the other girls in my class were reading, and I would always beg my mum to find me my own copy of whatever she was reading because I was sure it would be amazing (and every single one of them were). I am so thankful that I saw her that day in the corner of the library with her copy of Noughts & Crosses, and even more grateful that she lent me her copy and started my adventure into this breath taking series.
“Just remember, Callum when you’re floating up and up in your bubble, that bubbles have a habit of bursting. The higher you climb, the further you have to fall.”
Noughts & Crosses was like nothing else I had ever read at age 13, and I had never before been affected like I was with Sephy and Callum’s story. It was this book that gave me the push I needed to step away from the ‘safe’ children’s books I had been used to and really get into reading and try out new an different genres/authors. This book really did change everything for me, and whenever anyone asks me the question “If you could have written any book, which would it be?” my answer is and will always be: Nought’s and Crosses.
“I hadn’t fully realized just how powerful words could be before this. Whoever came up with the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ was talking out of his or her armpit.”
Callum and Sephy are two young people living in a world where the colour of your skin means the difference between the good life and life as a second class citizen. Sephy is a Cross, a part of the high society. She lives in a big house on the beach, goes to private school and has never wanted for anything other then her parents love and attention. Callum’s life is not so great. He lives with his parents and two siblings in a tiny run down house knowing that this is as good as life is ever going to get. The best thing each have in their lives is each other, but as any relationship betweeen a Nought and Cross is frowned up their friendship must remain a secret.
“That just the way it is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way it is. But don’t you believe them.”
When Callum gets the chance to be one of the first Nought students allowed to study at Sephy’s prestigious private school he believes it is his chance at a better life. But when outside forces threaten his plans he turns to the one stable thing he has: Sephy. As the two struggle with the decisions of their family they grow even closer.
Callum has grown up as a second class citizen, and he is determined to make something of himself and prove that he is capable of more then the Crosses think. He is angry at the world, but also at himself for his weakness when it comes to Sephy. To Callum, loving a Cross means loving a member of the people that oppress him. The people who are the source of his pain, anger and hatred. And his failure to hate Sephy, like he does all other Crosses, makes him feel like they have beaten him. He wants equality but struggles to find the right path. He finds the Governments attempt at “integration” insulting and knows that its a plan doomed to fail, but if he doesn’t trust the system to work, his only other option is the Liberation Malitia, whose belief of “the end justifies the means” is something that Callum knows he could never be a part of.
“You’re a Nought and I’m a Cross and there’s nowhere for us to be, nowhere for us to go where we’d be left in peace…That’s why I started crying. That’s why I couldn’t stop. For all the things we might’ve had and all the things we’re never going to have.”
Sephy starts this book quite idealistic, knowing the injustice going on in the world, but sure that one day Nought’s and Crosses will be equal and she and Callum can be together. Her journey through this book is very much one of growing up. Stephy starts to really see the crime in the way that Nought’s are treated and tries to fight against it, but as a young person with no power trying to fight the system, her views are ignored and instead she just lands herself in trouble. When she tries to extend the hand of friendship to other Nought’s beside Callum, her kindness is mistaken for pity and mockery and she soon learns that her utopian future is very far away.
“Love was like an avalanche, with Sephy and I hand-in-hand racing like hell to get out of it’s way-only, instead of running away from it, we kept running straight towards it.”
Both characters grow up a lot in this book as they struggle through life, both separately and together as a couple. Their relationship grows out of a very strong friendship and is more about having someone throughout all the bad stuff ho is there for them, and is exactly who they need to get them through it.
“People are people. We’ll always find a way to mess up, doesn’t matter who’s in charge.”
Malorie Blackmans book is based in the present day (I’m guessing, as there is internet) but a lot of its themes are pretty old school. The discrimination between skin colour is something that still happens today, but no where near as bad as in Blackman’s world. The thing that makes it the most interesting is that it is reversed to what it used to be like in our world, with the lighter skinned people being the second class citizen, ad every time Callum is attacked we have to remind ourselves that he is white, which goes against everything which we are used to. There are also public executions which seems so primitive.
“I pulled him closer to me, wrapping my arms around him, kissing him just as desperately as he was kissing me. Like if we could just love long enough and hard enough and deep enough, then the world outside would never, could never hurt us.”
This book is powerful beyond anything I have ever read, and it frustrates me that I can’t find words good enough to tell you all how amazing it really is. Blackman’s writing talent is beyond anything else and carries such a powerful message. The characters and their emotions are real, complicated and confusing, just as they would be for actual people Sephy and Callum’s age who are put through the same situations as them. Blackman writes their fear and pain in such a way that we feel it too, and when they finally achieve something their happiness becomes our own.
“Noughts & Crosses, White & Black, Blankers & Daggers, Callum & Sephy”
This book has stuck with me for years, and every chance I get I recommend it. Nought’s & Crosses is my top book of all time, and I never see that changing.
Re-Readability: Again and again and again…
I would recommend this book to fans of: young adult, YA romance, forbidden romances, books focused on race, epic romances