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Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman: A Review

January 12, 2013

Noughts and Crosses book coverNoughts and Crosses has been out for years and years. So long that I think the first time I saw it on a bookshelf was when I was still young enough to be buying books from the “young adult” section of bookshops. It tells the story of Callum, a nought, and Sephy, a cross and daughter of a prominent politician, who are star-crossed lovers if ever there were any. In a world where white “noughts” are second class citizens and black “crosses” rule the world, this pair find their differences and the expectations of society blocking their chances to be together at every turn, but somehow still their love endures. There are fights, riots, an extremist group, deaths and a kidnapping, but Sephy and Callum are still in love and I can only shrug when I try to think why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this book. I think what finally did it for me was seeing it on the World Book Night list for 2013. It might not be brand spanking new any more, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant and any less worth sharing.

Having said that, though, it took me a while to warm up to Noughts and Crosses. For the first 50 or so pages, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was reading a book written to address a much younger audience. I’m never one to give up on a book, but in my opinion, the best stories are those that transcend intended readership age and strike a chord for everyone.

After that first 50 pages, though, the plot really takes off and I just forgot that I wasn’t really liking the written style so much. The events of the book and the issues being discussed completely take over and suddenly it doesn’t matter whether you’re 14 or 40 and reading this. There’s a lot going on in Noughts and Crosses and there are important lessons for everyone to learn and remember. The most obvious lesson, especially for younger readers, is that treating people differently based on the colour of their skin is wrong, and can have tragic consequences. This is something that, having seen some of the things I’ve seen from British society, should ring true for a lot of older audiences as well. I won’t go deep into all the issues, but there’s a lot there that should be educational for everyone.

I can see exactly why Noughts and Crosses has become such an important novel, not just for young people but for everyone. It might not be perfect and it might not be the most sophisticated piece of writing, but that doesn’t matter. The issues that Noughts and Crosses raises are of vital importance to all levels of our society, and it’s those issues that shine through.

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