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Noughts & Crosses

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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?

479 pages, Paperback

First published January 15, 2001

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About the author

Malorie Blackman

159 books3,835 followers
An award-winning children's author, Malorie Blackman was honoured with an OBE in 2008. Her work has been adapted for TV and stage.

More information available at:
British Council: Contemporary Authors
British Council: Encompass Culture
Channel 4 Learning: Book Box

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Profile Image for K..
181 reviews715 followers
August 24, 2011
I've tried to write this review a few times, with articulate choice of words, a structure, intelligent observations and supporting facts to back me up. But I found voicing my feelings about this book difficult. So I gave up. And now I'm just gonna wing it.

First thing's first - Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses absolutely broke me in all ways a reader can be broken. I was walking around trying to enjoy my time in the ever spectacular show that is Times Square but found my mind retreating back to my hotel room yearning for Callum and Sephy. I sympathized with them at the Met, I cried for them at Central Park and I hoped with them in all the places in between...now I understand why you should only read happy books while on vacation. Serious.

This is the story of Callum and Sephy. Callum is white and a nought. Sephy is black and a Cross. Noughts are second-rate citizens. Crosses are the ruling class. There is a very strict, very clear divide between the two groups. But Callum and Sephy are in love and they try to fight against the enduring tide that is race and prejudice. Justice and oppression. What we feel is rightfully ours and what society say is rightfully ours. Self-conviction and the labels that are thrusted upon us. The need to make ourselves heard and the danger of speaking up.

But the battles they face are not only of politics but also within themselves. Callum wants to make something of himself. He believes he is capable of more than what the Crosses give him chances for. He's angered and insulted by the Cross government's "attempt" at "integration." He wants equality but struggles to find the right course. He can't join the Liberation Militia because they're brutal and believe that the "end justifies the means", even if victory means leaving devastation and death at its wake. And how does he reconcile all that with the feelings he has for Sephy when she is a member of the people who oppress him? Not only that but her father is instrumental in the mistreatment of his kind. To love Sephy means to to love the source of all his pain, hatred, anger. To Callum, it is like defeat and failure; as if he were giving in to them. He hates himself for loving her. And yet, Sephy isn't like them at all. Sephy sees the injustice and her inner struggle stems from her shame of being a Cross. Her people's inability to see their crime and her desire to fight for Callum's rights becomes a full time job. Unceasingly she persuades correct perspective to Crosses but is brushed off as ignorant. She continually tries to extend her hand to the noughts but is denied when her sympathy is falsely taken for pity and mockery. Callum himself is tired for always being in her debt. There are so many things working against their happiness that there is tension even when they try to help each other.

What I really appreciated in this book is that while the concept (of black and white reversed) is not new, Blackman spins a unique twist in her presentation. The novel is based at the present time (I safely assume as there is the internet) but the atmosphere, the feeling in the book, is primitive. When we begin the book, it has been a while since the abolition of slavery so noughts are free but only barely. They still suffer severe discrimination that which surpasses our own time's condition on racism. Noughts are only now being allowed to enter all-Cross educational institutions. There are only a handful of noughts with professions worth boasting about. There are still public executions. And the idea of a nought and a Cross being together is unthinkable. All these events have taken place but our progress has moved along much more gradually than Blackman's fictional society. Its like a really clever history lesson in the guise of a young adult novel.

Blackman tore my heart out. I related to Callum's sense of unfairness; how he wanted to do some many things but is never given the opportunity or the resources. I also related to Sephy in how she sometimes felt guilty for being a member of the elite, how she had so much when so many had so little. Contradictory, I know but we're all in the same position. We all want more than what we have but then we turn on the television and see images of death, suffering, corruption, famine. That's why I loved the way Blackman presented her characters. We can side with both. We root for Callum and Sephy as one.

Blackman's point on the absurdity of racism is stark and jolting. By reversing the situation of black and white, where white is bad and black is good, Blackman is appealing to our psychological tendencies and unhinges the false principles we are subconsciously conducive to. To watch a black man racially subjugate a white man is more unusual to digest than if it was the other way around. It fights against all that we know. The image of a black man suffering because of his color is accepted because of what history has taught us (and that in itself is heartbreaking). But every time Callum is attacked, it takes a second for us to remember he's white and they're black. And we realize how serious racism is.

This is a powerful book. It has powerful writing, powerful characters and a powerful message. It is layered and things like lines and boundaries aren't always clear. Its complicated and complex with confusing emotions and that's exactly how it is in real life. I love it when characters don't always know what to do because most of the time, no one really does. I love it when they're scared, doubtful and frustrated because it makes them real and when they emerge from their darkness, their triumph seems all the more attainable, which in turn inspires and motivates the readers and isn't that what its all really about? To make us better? When you see someone just as ordinary as you achieve something, it feels possible. Better that than a character who is already right off the bat bad-ass and confident. I don't have a problem with overtly strong characters with strong personalities but true strength for me is when someone feels like they can't fight but fights anyway.

The thing with this book is that it doesn't necessarily have to do with race at all. It imparts encouragement to fight for what you believe in, to be brave, to do the right thing, to be compassionate, to never judge a person before you know them, to be understanding, to be fair...

In the end, I remember putting the book down, thinking and decided I was too devastated to read the rest of the series. But my book came with An Eye for an Eye, a short sequel to Noughts and Crosses and just like that I was hooked all over again.

I'm in for better or worse.
Profile Image for Kajal Nehra.
95 reviews29 followers
August 11, 2013
"Dear God, please let him have heard me. Please.
If you're up there.

Holy fucking hell! What !?? What was this book? Noughts and Crosses is a hands-down 5+ starer. If I’m allowed I wouldn’t give it a half-a-star less than a 100.

Can anyone please answer this question: How do you even go about reviewing this book? How do you even -
God, how are you even in a condition to speak after reading this? My bed is a snotty mess right now and I can’t seem to be able to able to stop bawling my eyes out.

This is my condition after having finished reading Noughts and Crosses.
Crying fountain Big Smiley Crying

My emotions are not letting me gather my thoughts hence I'll just write few things which I can remember off the top of my head and then shut up and go away in search of another box of tissues.

First of all, Callum and Sephy - guys I ADORE you. I really really do. Just know that I love you two. So much. I love you both with my life.

The issue which Noughts and Crosses tackles is one that I can most connect to, or lets say I'm most familiar with. Noughts - the whites, and Crosses - the blacks are not supposed to intermingle. Crosses are the dominating one - where all the power lies. Noughts are weaker ones. You'll find (at least I did) that these terms - the Noughts and the Crosses are nothing but substitutes for the others that you can easily witness in the real life if you take a closer look at the society today. For example, in India it could be like any two castes: the Hindus and the Muslims, or even the rich and the poor in many cases. There is forbidden love which can easily be witnessed anywhere, everywhere - but there's also racism, and inequality. This is nothing new - now is it? For those of you who thought these things only existed over a century ago, you're wrong! Certainly they existed then but by no means have they vanished in today's time. This topic - it strikes a chord somewhere. It has struck a nerve somewhere deep - and you know you're bleeding all over on the inside.

One look at the Liberation Militia and their beliefs and principles gives you some sort of insight as to what goes on in the minds of the people belonging to terrorist groups. Not that I think of LM as a terrorist group but considering what they do and the way they do it - obviously they could be conceived as a terrorist organisation in one way. They are not at all bad or evil people - they just believe and understand that what they do is the right thing. They really do believe that in their heart of hearts. After all the cause really is the right one, the noble one! After all there is only so much one can take before they stand up and fight against it. But the way they choose to implement it - I believe that is not the best method.

Remember the saying? - An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

Ms. Blackman - I salute you. You wrote this book? Wow. Really, I need to meet you once to show you the extent to which this book has moved me/affected me. You really have added a diamond to the growing pile of literary treasure.

Another thing that comes to my mind when I think about the story is the poor poor Meggie McGregor. What did she ever do wrong so as to deserve this magnitude - this degree - of pain and grief and sadness? It literally hurts your heart to think about the grief and the kind of torment that lady has to go through - and that too without any of her own fault.

Dear God, please. Please. Do not let such a story EVER be true. Never. Please. If you're up there. Somewhere.

All that I can say to anyone who reads this review is that if you don't read Noughts and Crosses, then you'e committing a sin. A SIN! I can't imagine that there exists a person who likes reading dystopian novels but doesn't like Noughts and Crosses. Its not even possible! They'll all be keeling over crying with all their ruddy might by the time they finish reading this book. Especially the last few pages - those will hurt so much it could feel like someone's crushing your heart and hence let me warn you there'll be lots of internal bleeding.

I recommend this book to each and every one - human or animal.
April 27, 2020
Update. This is a tv series now. I hated this book, but from an ideological and personal perspective, rather than an entertainment one which is how I suppose most people read it. I'm wondering whether to watch the tv series and take it lightly or if I will be as upset as I was reading the book?
Reading this, I read about a quarter of it I suppose, I thought say it was written by someone white from the opposite point of view, that is whites are on top and pushing their agenda, and they wrote in this very 'I came top of English and joined a writing circle' kind of way, would we still praise it? Or are we being all white-liberal and this book is kind of helping us say 'mea culpa' and the author is very, very cynically playing on that?

And I know it's all about we can overcome prejudice and just share the love together, but to me that is not the underlying agenda of the book at all. That's just the hook... YMMV
On the island I live on, when I arrived there were about 8,000 people, not poor, nice place to live, very difficult to get to and everyone said 'hello' when you passed them on the street. It became very wealthy quite quickly and the government gave many scholarships for the bright young things who wanted to go to historically-black African-American universities in the US. Some of them were staff working for me before college, and they were a lovely bunch.

When they got back they would come and see me from time-to-time. Mo had become a Black Muslim. He invited me to a poetry reading and said that if I heard anything against whites I shouldn't take it on, it wasn't directed at me. Maie came back and started a political party for youth representation, grew her locks and wrote in the paper about how whites need re-educating. I had tea in a street cafe with a black friend, a UN official, and later another one of these kids passing our table, now a journalist, said to her, "I know you have to do business with them but you don't have to socialise with them too." My friend who didn't feel like that told me what she'd said.

They were the new intelligensia, angry young blacks carrying a chip on their shoulder of all the ills that African-American society has to deal with in America. What they had forgotten was that the black man is king in his own country, and the island government was entirely black, and doing very well. American ills, history and aspirations are not ours.

They are older now. They are running the colleges, the schools, the newspapers, some are aiming for politics and they are nice to your face whilst maintaining their pernicious attitudes. They teach a form of history that is fake where they were 'stolen from Africa' rather than sold, they worship some of the most evil people in America looking only to see what their attitudes are towards white people and not to anything else.

They have me caused a lot of harm whether educationally with my kids , or giving book contracts for schools to a furniture supplier rather than to the white woman and her bookshop.

So I know where this book is coming from.

Do I say that Black racism is here and all the whites are innocent victims? Somewhat, nobody white has any power really. But there is plenty of white racism, very covert, it is not our society, but it exists and is often social. You don't get invited places, neither do your children if you are black and not a lawyer or doctor.

Some of the whites want nothing to do with me, they won't patronise a 'traitor's' business (mine) and speak disparagingly of me. They have caused me a lot of harm what with no contracts from their schools either, social isolation for my kids and talking trash to me (those who don't know me) about blacks in general. They say things like 'when we all leave this place is going to be like Haiti again'. (It never was, it was never poor).

I do see both sides. My ex is black, from a top political family. Two of my sons are black, one has locks, he's lovely and loud and very protective of me. Although I am their stepmother since they were very young, people say as they still do, 'she ca'an be yu mudder, she white', my sons will immediately say I am and none of us will say 'step', just mother, just sons.

My youngest son turned out white, and as long as the whites in school didn't mix with the blacks he was invited everywhere. But then came the funeral of a Prime Minister, a brpther in law and everyone knew it was my family, and the invitations stopped from most of them. At 8 my son's hair went kinky and darkened to light brown. He was blamed for everything and thrown out of the white school. The black tutor I employed charged me exactly 5 times as much as he did local blacks.

And now, my son is a lawyer and can't get a job in the international companies, he never has quite the right qualifications that the successful candidates do. They all come from the UK and are white.

So I really know it from both sides.
And I know where the author is coming from and I am disgusted.

Rewritten 27 April 2020
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,944 reviews292k followers
July 29, 2016
This may have been the first YA "dystopia" I ever read. The genre has gone through many changes since then but this book continues to stick in my mind as one which cemented my love for it. It's an old tale of forbidden romance but avoids being cheesy. It's a tale of heartache and tragedy but steers clear of melodrama. One thing is certain: Sephy and Callum's story will stay with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Carly.
37 reviews9 followers
April 16, 2012
So I've finally made myself finish this book. I had real high expectations, seeing all the 5 star reviews and 'wow's!'. What a let down. I've never been any good at writing book reviews so excuse me if this doesn't come across how I want it too. One word i would use to describe this book..... Flat. It had no depth and it just felt rushed and really, it was quite boring. The characters were really two-dimensional and it was near impossible for me to care about what happened to them, i couldn't even dredge up any emotion for the last chapter. Also, where was this supposed romance?? One minute they were friends, the next they were declaring love, having sex (wtf was with that anyway? He had just kidnapped her but still she lays down with him!?) and making a baby. Just stupid, there was no believable lead up to all this. When I read a good book I can envision it in my head, create my own little movie if you like, but this is the only book I've ever read where that didn't happen. I do like the basis for the plot, it just could have been so much more than it is.
Profile Image for Reading Corner.
88 reviews104 followers
July 15, 2016
This book is just wow,definitely A+.I was hooked from the start by the gripping story and complex relationship between Callum and Sephy,I didn't want to put the book down because it was soooo good.I completely fell in love with the idea of Callum and Sephy together despite all the set backs and difficulties they had to face.

The whole story is fantastic as there's never a dull moment and you really feel for the characters because the writing is amazing.The end just killed me and left me heart broken and was definitely unexpected.The added extract of An Eye For An Eye is a great addition as it gives insight into Jude and Minerva characters and is a exciting but tense follow up to the story.

I think everyone should give this book a go and I'm so excited to read the next book,despite the heartbreaking finish to the first novel.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
684 reviews1,051 followers
April 27, 2020
Watching the TV series didn’t feel like the books I loved as a 16 year old.

Planning to go back to a reread very soon as I didn’t have Goodreads then and I’d like to review them all.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,700 reviews461 followers
November 18, 2022
Edited to add: I LOVED the TV show associated with this book. The show answers all of the questions I had about the book.
I could not love the show more.

Original Review:
This was a miss for me.
The idea is good just poorly executed world building.
If white people (Noughts) were enslaved by blacks (Crosses), why does this happen? Where does this happen? Why are they called Noughts & Crosses, what is the name derivative of?
What African Nation did this? Why do most of the characters have English names? Why do the places have English names? That's not how conquering works.
The same with the culture, why are they participating in English activites vs forcing their culture, language and customs on the people they are oppressing? All while disparaging their customs, not participating in them.
It's just sloppy world building.
The romance is just, no. Racism is terrible but once one character has harmed another, it's best to no longer run with the romance angle. Storyline dangerously normalizes troubling relationship behaviors.
I'm shocked this is so popular and highly rated.
Profile Image for Emily B.
424 reviews416 followers
April 8, 2021
I read this when I was much younger and only had vague memories of it. I reread the series last year and really enjoyed them!
Profile Image for Tuckleton.
91 reviews5 followers
August 22, 2007
I wish there was a negative star. There are so many good books about civil rights and race relations, I don't know what the author was doing trying to rip everyone else off for. I thought the writing and the plots were poorly written and superifical. I am not sure how I forced my self to keep reading this pathetic book.

Read the invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Read a Prayer before Dieing by Gaines

Read a comic book before you waste you time on this book.

The only thing I can say about it being published in the US is maybe it will get the panning it deserves if it does.
March 23, 2015
*3-4 stars, what's the difference?? I just started bawling as I added the quotes, so clearly I'm unreliable*

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I held out my hands and she put hers in mine, looking at me ruefully. Love was like an avalanche, with Sephy and I hand-in-hand racing like hell to get out of its way-only instead of running away from it, we kept running straight toward it.

So...hmmm...yeah. This book is an asshole. Seriously. What the ever loving fuck, I mean, REALLY??? Fucking REALLY?!?!? I wouldn't take much stock in my rating because I don't know what to rate this. I don't know how to rate this. And, most importantly, I don't know what I feel!!! This book is what I'm going to call a 'Blur Rating'. It's a new thing, join me, will you? I just decided last night I need a shelf for my blur ratings since they seem to be happening more often than not, lately. I am angry. I am livid. I am upset. I don't know what to think. I am crushed.

I've finally figured it out. I'm dead. I died a long time ago, woke up in hell and didn't even realize.

The beginning of this book started out with a bang. It was clear that our two main characters were never going to be able to be together and live peacefully. He is a naught, she is a cross. A cross is high society, a naught is low society. One grew up privileged, the other did not. Naughts are spit on, crosses are revered and looked upon as if they are royalty among peasants. But ever since they were little, Callum and Sephy have been meeting up at their 'secret spot' so they can hang out together-they are best friends who got separated after tragic circumstances and they have been struggling to stay close since. And my my my what do we have here, you ask?? Well, I'd say we have a case of star-crossed lovers, if I do say so, myself. ;)

Was that all love did for you? Made you give up and give in? Left you open to pain and hurt? If it was, I swore that nothing would ever make me do the same as her.


Even now after sleeping on what happened at the end of this stupid book I am a mess. My eyes are puffy and I hardly slept a wink. I tossed and turned and grumbled and fumbled around until I was a pissy asshole-oh, hey! Just like this book! Ugh.

Each move I made in Callum's direction just seemed to pave my way faster to hell.

Now, I think what makes me the maddest is that the writing wasn't even that great. It was all about the characters, for me. From the very beginning I was invested in what happened to these two young people who loved each other despite their differences and their social classes-nothing could keep me away from seeing what all the fuss was about-after all, I do love a climactic conclusion, dontcha know? So, I excused the juvenile writing because every time I would start to get angry with the situations or the characters or the GD writing, something truly gripping would happen that would suck me back in. Especially the last 30%-It was truly gripping. The edge-of-my-seat-gripping. I mean, after all, they were 12 at the beginning of the book and teenagers in the middle, so naturally it's easy to except lots of exclamation points (well, I lie, I can't stand over use of exclamation points!!!!!!) because I know kids, ya know....exclaim....a lot. lol But as the book progressed, one would ponder why the author kept this style of writing up. And I came up with one simple answer: The author just writes like this. Which brings me to my next answer: I will never, ever, EVER read another book by this author-and not only because of the writing.

I'm not a blanker. I may be a naught but I'm worth more than nothing. I'm not a blanker. A waste of time and space. A zero. I'm not a blanker. I'M NOT A BLANKER.

I just....there were so many moments where hate spewed from the two main characters and it broke my heart. They loved each other, but all these horrible situations kept happening where Callum's class would show and he would get this visceral feeling where he resented all the crosses (naturally and understandably), including Sephy. It's so easy to group those we are closest to with a bad situation and I found it to be very realistic-but it still broke my damn heart. Each time they'd overcome something, another obstacle catapulted itself right in their way, each situation more venomous than the last. It was a great look at the struggle between different races and the battles that can come with class and hierarchy. I felt it to the bottom of my soul, and it definitely flipped the coin-quite a bit.

In my bad dreams, it was only when my hands were bloody and I was gasping frantically for breath that I realized I wasn't in a box at all. It was a coffin. And once I realized that, I stopped struggling and just waited to die. That's what terrified me the most.
I stopped struggling and waited to die.


So. I don't know. My mind and my heart wrestled over what to rate this. On the one hand, I loved how the story had this huge emotional deal from 70% on. On the other hand, I hated many of parts of this book and I couldn't stand the overly dramatic dialogue a lot of the time-I know, me and my dialogue. But near the end I was very heavily leaning towards a four...I really was. But my heart got thrown into a wood-chipper and came out the other side a bloody pulp. I was sobbing, unexpectedly, last night and I wanted to hurl this stupid un-throwable ebook across the room and smash it against the wall. And while I am one of the only people in my close-knit group here on Goodreads who loves self-sacrifices, perilous endings where bad things happen and, hey, let's say it-deaths (sometimes), this ending was harsh beyond measure and I just...couldn't. I am strong. I love crazy, heart-stopping endings, but this book took it one step too far and I was already a little on the fence with it.

So many before me have loved this, and I did, to an extent, as well. But their love touched me so deeply that I feel I'm a little scarred-and I don't take kindly to emotional scarring.

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Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,913 reviews1,444 followers
March 14, 2020
I was curious to read this having enjoyed the first episode of the TV adaptation although I realise now that it’s based on the book along with a second realisation that I’m too long in the tooth to fully appreciate YA novels! This thought provoking read turns history on its head by having Crosses (ruddy daggers in nought slang) who are African in origin the dominant ruling force over Noughts who are European in origin. Noughts (Blankers being the term of abuse) are seen as nothing and were originally Cross slaves but are now subject to the law stacked against them and all the accompanying prejudice. Persephone known as Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. This is the story of their forbidden friendship which becomes love with all the attendant difficulties that a racially divided world presents. The story is told in alternating chapters by Sephy and Callum. The story is dramatic and a number of dangerous events occur against a rising tide of Nought militarism. This is a well written and powerful story that really makes you think.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,136 reviews1,316 followers
October 16, 2018
After Blackman was announced as one of the writers on the new series of Doctor Who, I really wanted to read one of her novels so that I could get a feel for her work.
As her episode is going to focus on Rosa Parker’s and the constant theme of this book was race and segregation, I ended up getting even more of a gasp on what her episode might be like than I originally expected.
This book was just so incredible!

Set in an alternate universe where dark skinned people known as crosses are the superior race.
The story follows teenagers Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought) who struggle to understand why they have to be segregated.

The story narrative switches between the two perspectives as both make sense of the world they live in, I found the scene were Callum is questioning why there’s no references to any noughts in the school curriculum just so powerful.

I really liked both characters and was really rooting for it to work out for them, with so much adversity I was completely wrapped up and shocked with how the final third played out.
I was completely hooked!

I’m really excited to see Blackman’s take on Doctor Who, I’m glad the show has brought her to my attention.
I really want to read the next book as soon as possible!
Profile Image for Jeffrey.
578 reviews11 followers
September 8, 2017
Given the choice between rereading Naughts and Crosses again and having someone slowly puncture my right eye with a rusty icepick, I would gladly take the rusty icepick. Some may think I am exaggerating, but that is only because they have not read this tripe. World-building at its worst, that's Naughts and Crosses. I could not engage in the narrative, I despised the narrators because they bored me, and the narrative voice would have been more effective as a third-person omniscient. Character development was limited and amateurish {Of all the book's faults [and there are many(I know I am being a little hypocritical in pointing out faults when I am being overly parenthetical, but...)], this is probably the worst.}. The figurative language seemed to be composed by a fourth grader.

Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!
Profile Image for Jenn Harris.
63 reviews29 followers
August 9, 2013

“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..."

***2 stars*** This is my fourth time writing this review. Let's hope it gets done this time***

It's time for...


Jenn's Pro/Con List!


1. The dual POV. Sometimes when a character makes a stupid decision, you wonder "What the hell was he/she/it thinking?" Well, because this book was told from both Sephy and Callum's first-person point-of-view, you know exactly what they were thinking. It really does shed some light. You may not agree with what they did, but at least you know why they did it.

2. The characters are realistic and complex. I especially liked Callum, because he was a realist, and smart, too. Sephy irritated me to no end because she was so naive. But then again, I'm pretty sure she was supposed to be that way. It would be weird if she were like Callum, because their circumstances are so different. They are so different.

3. At least it was food for thought?


1. This was pretty much the story of the Civil Rights movement except racially reversed. I was hoping for something more imaginative. I already know about the real Civils Rights Movement, I don't need to read a re-hash ("re-hash" what a funny word) of it.

2. Much of the plot was predictable. There were few, if any, surprises.

3. The cover of the book says "a thriller". Aren't thrillers supposed to be, you know, thrilling? I was very unthrilled, and maybe even a bit bored for the majority of this book. It was slow to progress.

4. Damn that ending.

Final Comments:

I do not plan on continuing with this series. I'm just not engrossed enough. I was expecting something more original, or at least more exciting. So yeah, that pretty much sums it up. That's all I guess.

Profile Image for Rose.
1,857 reviews1,048 followers
May 15, 2013
I feel an enormous amount of pressure writing this review, but probably not for the reason that you might think. "Noughts and Crosses" tackles very difficult subjects in a multidimensional, emotional way. It features a relationship that has deeper implications than one may figure it on the surface.

To preface the whole of this review, my viewpoints and perspective going into and coming from this book will not speak for any and all who may peruse it - let alone other people of color who may pick this up and judge it from their respective positions and experiences. Yet, I think of the novels I've perused in the reverse discrimination measure, this is the one that was closest to hitting the nail on the head with how to portray it - with sensitivity, with enough wiggle room to get you to think on the subject matter for itself while still exploring progressive attitudes, and even if the characters were naive as anything else (and oh were they in this book!), they had a tough coming of age as the narrative moved forward.

I have a few points I want to make starting off this review before delving into the story itself, maybe it might help you to understand how I took this narrative in on a personal level.

Let's begin with a bit of a reflection. Noughts and Crosses was written by a woman of color from the UK, yet she told a narrative that really spoke to me in more ways than one as an American woman of color. One thing that Blackman mentions in the heart of this novel is that - and I'm paraphrasing this - history is often lost to time in the scope of narrative, shaped by the winners of conflicts where there may be deeper implications that run with those. And that has been proven to be true - we don't always hear all of the stories that go into the struggles of oppression of any minority group - the focus here being race.

We don't hear the individual story of the black young lady who's denounced by members of her own race for having an insinuated sexual relationship with a white man. She's told that she's "easy" or "too good" to have a relationship with someone of her own background. In the heart of that particular time, there were even some who considered any kind of interracial relationship - regardless of consent or age - as an argument for accusations of rape.

We don't hear the individual story of the white male who - for daring to have any kind of relationship with a woman of any color, is not only socially/verbally denounced by his peers at their place of education and work, but abducted in the night by members of his own race, bound by his wrists, tied to the back of a vehicle and dragged for several yards as "punishment" for relating with "the enemy." And then teeming on the barest thread of survival, after being dragged through mud, he's told by his tormentors that he's just as "dirty" as the person he loved.

You don't often hear these individual stories of prejudice in textbooks where the larger social struggles are noted. The larger stories are certainly worth noting, but so are the smaller ones that aren't often seen. Some of them are often lost to time where there are no longer those to tell them if they're not written or passed across the generational gaps in various means - through art, through verbal stories, through varied dimensions. The above narratives I mentioned are true stories. Horrible but true. It makes me thank God I live in a time that I do, that the sacrifices that people made in the past shaped the present progressions known today so that they give me freedoms now that weren't recognized in the past. But the pain remains knowing what people had to suffer through in order to get to that point.

Here's where I get into the very significant difference between the approach in Blackman's "Noughts and Crosses" versus Victoria Foyt's "Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls #1)" and Laura Preble's "Out" (the former dealing with racial relations, the latter dealing with GLBT relationships). I'm sure you guys knew this was coming from me because I read both of those books before "Noughts and Crosses", and reading this made it more clear to me exactly where and why those books dropped the ball.

1. Focus on the characters, not simply the issue. In Blackman's narrative, you understand who Callum and Sephy are from the get-go and are given a chance to care about them, even if their attitudes and positions in the dynamic of the conflict are not shaped because of their naivete. Sephy's 14 when the narrative stars, Callum's 15 - they're kids, and plausibly just coming to age with some of the measures working against them (though I would argue in real world context, there are some children who've had to come to terms much sooner than that - see the story of Ruby Bridges, if you want an example.)

Granted, yes, Sephy's father is in politics and he has very strong political and prejudicial opinions that are obviously anti-Nought (Noughts are white, Crosses are Black in this world). She's a member of a family who is in a position of power, and with that power comes the potential for the struggle dynamic.

You also understand that Callum's family is the victim of oppression in more than one dimension (his mother was fired from her job, subverting the education of one child - Jude - towards another's. The other in this case being Callum.) Callum and Sephie live in a social climate that makes it very difficult for them to be friends. The story doesn't do it in a way that obviously milks the dramatic contexts. Callum wants an education, though his family pushes him with respect to his achievements. Sephy's in an isolated environment with respect to her father's ranking and everything she does gets put across in a measure of her "privileged" lifestyle. So when Callum, pretty much the closest person she has to a friend, is allowed to attend her school among a small group of Noughts - it hits very close to home in its parallels to what happened with integration of the schools/working against the Jim Crow "separate but equal" measure in our real society.

The characters and how they deal with the issues - not the issues working them - are shaped in the framework.

Callum and Sephie are also established to have had a relationship for a long time - not an instalove measure. They endured a significant deal of challenges to that relationship from family and external measures. For example, I think the story of what happened on the train was worth noting. Their different viewpoints and coming to terms with the incident was a great illustration of how they recognized the prejudices surrounding them, but weren't aware of how to speak of them to each other because of their respective ages and coming to terms with how society viewed their interactions. It felt realistic.

For Victoria Foyt, trying to show prejudice in "Revealing Eden" was a cluster you-know-what from the very beginning. It was all about Eden, it was never about anyone else but Eden, and she made it about her "Help! Help! I'm being oppressed, and I'm not going to even try to come to any kind of understanding of the other party other than through TRU LUV!" almost from the very get go. It was hard to sympathize with her, let alone the messages that were beaten over the head about her skin color, about her villainizing everybody else who was different from her, the implausible way that functioned in her not-so-scientifically sound society, among other aspects.

For Laura Preble, "Out" had the instalove factor that killed it just as much as the casual dismissal of all the rules in the overblown society that was working against their relationship, right up until around the time when their relationship was "discovered." Instead of properly developing the characters and the issues they dealt with - it was all about the "love machine," the way they biologically "fit" with each other (*cringes*), and the attitudes that were projected rather than shown in the dynamic and stakes of the story.

2. Contexts that actually make sense! Even for the discrimniflip senario that's in this book - the "what if" here makes more sense and feels less forced down the throat of the reader. It gives you the chance to consider several things. What if the minority group faces educational limitations, has to deal with common slurs and everyday examples of prejudice, what if they face internal prejudices that come with skin color and perceptions of beauty, what if the limitations exist in trying to find employment or make a living for one's family, and even being able to not cope with the smaller scales of oppression in addition to the larger ones and taking steps to bite back against it - fight fire with "fire"? I really appreciated that Blackman dealt with all of these dimensions, and she does so in a way that makes you feel the losses when they hit (and they hit pretty hard).

I did read in one consideration that the violent aspects in this weren't plausible and were used for melodrama and/or stereotyping against the minority, but I have to refute that with the power of a thousand...somethings here. The path to civil rights in this country, among others, has often had the incurring of loss of life and violent uprising to shape a part of it. It's a part of the struggle and a realistic notation of different approaches to gain the same means. There have been demonstrative measures done in peace in the scheme of the Civil Rights movement (sit-ins such as the one at the diner in Charlotte, NC, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat in Alabama, the March on Washington, etc.), but for that, there have also been bloody violent uprisings/tragedies that have shaped the Civil Rights movement just as well (the four girls who were killed in the church bombing, movements by the Black Panther party who clashed in several ways in order to fight against their oppressors, etc). I saw the parallels the story was trying to draw with that and it didn't feel exploitative to me, but rather an alternate mirroring that took into consideration many dimensions, though certainly not all.

The group that Callum becomes immersed in after the certain tragedies that occur in his immediate family felt plausible to me because of the motivation and conjunction of the group trying to fight against the oppression of the society. Do I believe what they did (Callum included) was right? No, I don't - it boiled my blood when I read it, and particularly how Sephy ended up becoming involved in that crossfire. Do I think it could've been portrayed a bit more even? Absolutely, it had some clear flaws in the portrayal. But at least I understood it. I understood the events that led up to that point, even if it felt like a stage drama on the level of "Romeo and Juliet", "West Side Story", "Raisin in the Sun", or something along that notation. It was dramatic, maybe even a little overmuch with the drama in measures, but it sold its point to me.

For Victoria Foyt's "Revealing Eden" - it was ridiculous to the point of oblivion. It wasn't plausible considering the heavily scientifically inaccurate hinging of "melanin theory" in that shaping of the world, it wasn't plausible that Eden Newman (note the name) was the saving grace of the "Pearl" race, "creationist theory" and championing of mankind, and it wasn't plausible in any consideration that she, in her relationship with Bramford, spent almost every other chance denouncing and capitalizing on her prejudices against him among other racial groups, then turning around and saying "I love you". *rolls eyes*

For Laura Preble's "Out"? The problem with that was the championing of one relationship without consideration or equivalent notation of the other or multiple dimensions. There wasn't a two way struggle or examination of differences, but rather a heavily loaded statement of "This love is forbidden, you will suffer or die if you don't conform." When moralities were examined in the story, they were force fed to implicate the way you were to think about them, and when a point of contention or controversy would be brought up (i.e. the idea that men couldn't be raped...*side-eyes the screen*), it was quickly dismissed without any kind of follow-up or coming to terms.

At least Blackman had the maturity to approach the divisions and build a plausible contrast within the world that was similar to the stakes of the reality we know, while building the realm in its own context.

That said - I did have some issues with "Noughts & Crosses". It may take a bit of getting into because it's slower paced and the characters are young and still coming to terms with the meaning of the prejudices they face in society in the beginning of the story. After a certain point, when the conflicts start hitting, they hit one right after the other. I actually came to feel for the characters after a time even when I felt their rationale infuriated me. There's also a consideration that there may be so much emotional punch in this book coming in succession that some may feel it wipes them out or it may be too much for the overarching conflict/characterization. I think by a certain point of the book, I felt that it was one after the other and the worst possible thing you could think happened actually happened. It wasn't without context or came out of nowhere, but it wasn't pulling any punches - sometimes within contexts that I think could've been better fit for form.

I think Sephy and Callum's romantic ties could've been better portrayed and in maybe more subtle cues within many of the overarching punches. Somehow I wanted more from it, though I saw the conflict between them and understood that while there were aspects that drove them apart, it was an appreciation and respect for each other that kept them close. Towards the end of the book, I had a problem with the sequencing leading up to the ending - I understood the context, but the development didn't match to me and I don't think many people would get the significance of that parallel and turn in the conflict for the social attitudes of the time/issue it's mirroring.

And then there was the ending. THAT ENDING. Oh my word, my brain and my heart broke in two. It's probably the best ending for something in the dramatic framework that I could think of for this story, but it packs a mighty punch in the spectra of the dramatic. I understood in some turns why it went in that direction, but for some, I could certainly see why it may not sit well in the overarching play by play this story takes in its progression. It may feel for some like one additional conflict that leaves you on the fringe among some of the others.

All in all, though, I actually liked this, and despite places where I think it could've established itself more than what it did, with greater degrees of vetting of the conflicts and examination of the character dimensions of the relationship, I appreciated what it provided in its consideration.

Overall score: 4/5
Profile Image for ☆☽Erica☾☆.
200 reviews674 followers
January 4, 2016

This book destroyed me, heart and soul.

Please understand, this book is absolutely incredible.

And I'm not including those crying gifs simply for effect. I was legitimately sobbing by the end of this book. I was literally crawling on the floor collapsing. It was probably the most intense reaction to a book I've ever had. My boyfriend was both concerned and irritated.

I tried to explain but he hates reading so I couldn't even begin and he's just sitting there like:

This is one of my favorite books of all time.

I even tweeted at the author and tried to tell her that her book was amazing.(She favorited the tweet :D)

The love story.
The characters.
The bluntness of the storytelling.

God. Amazing.

I read this a while ago but I never see people talking about this book so I thought I would say something about it so PEOPLE WOULD READ IT.


Don't leave me with my emotions all by myself.

Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,133 followers
January 26, 2009
Sephy and Callum are the best of friends. They grew up together and despite the animosity between their families now, they continue to see each other in secret. But as they grow older and the world encroaches on their friendship, they can deny no longer the big glaring barrier between them: Sephy is a Cross, Callum is a nought. Society, the world, their families, will never accept them.

Sephy is the daughter of Kamal Hadley, a successful and important politician who's manoeuvring his way to the top seat in parliament while his society wife drinks herself to oblivion. She goes to a posh school by chauffeur-driven car and doesn't really understand the discrimination and prejudice the noughts endure.

Callum knows all too well. From being constantly suspected of every possible crime and assumed the worst of, to being denied an education and treated like he's not just stupid but incapable of learning the skills the Crosses have - every day he faces the fact that he's lower than second-class because of one arbitrary fact he has no control over: the colour of his skin.

Yes, Callum is white and he's suffered all his life for it.

Blackman has taken our own history and flipped it around - but it's not an exact mirror-image: the situation of the noughts is far worse in legal terms than what non-whites suffer today in most developed countries (I want to stress the word "legal" here - in Noughts & Crosses, the law doesn't protect the noughts but takes the guilty before proven innocent stance - we have at least moved away from that, though it doesn't change what goes through people's heads still).

Blackman isn't trying to make dark-skinned people look bad and white people sympathetic; she's highlighting how arbitrary and ridiculous racial prejudice is, and how easily it could have been the other way around. She wrecks havoc on the age-old belief that people of one particular skin colour are naturally more intelligent and talented than others - it may not be scientifically supported anymore but the belief is still there, in some places, amongst some people.

Noughts & Crosses is written alternately in the voices of Sephy and Callum, in short chapters that grant the two differing perspectives. There's pain and tension here, and anger - it's a mature book, and doesn't shy away from the worst of human nature. It's well written, with both Sephy and Callum growing older, more mature, more disillusioned. For a book that's not set anywhere in particular, about a world that doesn't literally exist, it's a very real story because it pokes right at the heart of so many of our problems and makes no apologies for forcing us to look at ourselves.

I would have loved this book had I read it as a teenager, I know that for sure. As an adult, I found the chapters a little brief, a bit hurried, a tad too unsubtle. Which would be fine for an adolescent's attention span.

This edition also includes the short novella, An Eye for an Eye, which comes between this and the next book in the trilogy, Knife's Edge.
Profile Image for Trinity F.
159 reviews10 followers
November 15, 2018
“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.”

Well, this was disappointing.

TW: hate crimes, racism, abduction, hangings, suicide, rape, teen pregnancy, mass murder, terrorism

Before I get into the review I would just like to say that I am not in anyway criticizing Malorie Blackman. I believe that she is an amazing author with lots of talent, but I just did not enjoy this one book of hers. I know that her writing has developed a lot since she first wrote this book.

I really wished I liked this book. Prior to reading this Malorie Blackman was one of my favourite authors, and she still is now, despite how much I despise this series.

I read her book Boys Don't Cry earlier this year and absolutely loved it. When I found out that she was writing an episode of Doctor Who, I was ecstatic, and sure enough Rosa is now one of my favourite episodes. When I saw them second hand for sale, I brought another five books by Malorie Blackman, the entire Noughts and Crosses series and The Stuff Of Nightmares.

So, of course, you can imagine how pissed I am now.

What really has surprised me about this book is how it is really aimed towards people in their preteens and teens. Towards the start it seemed like the perfect introduction for the young adult genre for younger readers, but the ending is incredibly graphic (see my comments on the romance and the ending below).

What really disappointed me was how much potential this book had. The premise of this book is amazing but the execution was done terribly. I honestly cannot think of one redeeming factor about this book and I am really surprised about how many positive reviews and the high rating this book has.

I did enjoy the first part of the book more than the second part. If the book had of continued how it had started it would probably be around a three star read, but it was the final quarter of the book that really let it down for me.

What I Didn't Like:

1. The Characters

I really felt nothing towards Callum or Sephy. They both really annoyed me, and I really struggled to understand their motivations or find any reason at all. I got really bored of them, especially considering that there was also a complete absence of any side characters. Sure, there were the families of the main character, but they were unseen more the majority of the book. There were quite a few characters who were introduced for one or two chapters and then conveniently sent away or even never mentioned again.

2. The Plot

The plot is probably my greatest critique. It felt very disjointed and the pacing felt really off.

The large time jumps really annoyed me. Sometimes they would skip weeks, months or years at what felt like very random moments. Many of the scenes that were included in the book were very irrelevant to the plot, and many other really important scenes were skipped over and summarized in the next chapter. This only made the disjointed feeling in the plot much worse. The very worst example of this is in chapter 90, if you want to check it out.

This book also completely lacked any subplots. There was nothing going on except for the main plot. At the beginning I felt as though there may have been some subplots forming such as the relationship between Sephy and her sister, Callum's sister's mental illness, and the racism Callum experiences within school, but these were all quickly abandoned around the halfway mark.

The beginning was incredibly slow. There were really no major plot points until over halfway through the book. And about an entire books worth of plot was shoved into the end. I honestly feel that I would have enjoyed this much more if it were split into two books instead of just one.

3. The Romance

The romance felt very rushed, and like it formed from nothing. I did like Callum and Sephy's friendship at the beginning, but as the story progressed they were constantly arguing, becoming angry at each other and then mending their relationship again. I felt as this was just constantly repeating. Then they are separated for a significant amount of time and straight afterwards their romance begins, with absolutely no development or lead in.

Their romance is also incredibly toxic and unhealthy. There are numerous example littered throughout the book, but the absolute worst are in chapters 79-80 and chapter 101. If both circumstances consent is violated and in chapter 101 there is a very significant power imbalence, so a trigger warning for sexual assault in both. I've summarized them here:

Chapter 79-80:

Chapter 101:

4. The Ending

The ending was very predictable. I guessed what would happen about two thirds of the way in. But while I was about fifteen chapters from the end, the ending was spoiled for me anyway, IN THE BLURB OF THE NEXT BOOK. I feel as though this is just an obvious mistake that any publisher would look out for. So, if you don't want to be spoiled for the ending, then I recommend not reading the blurb for An Eye For An Eye.

The ending also felt incredibly rushed. While the first half of the book was very slow, the final quarter felt as though it had a whole books worth of plot points shoved into it.

Also, it is one of my absolute pet peeves when the I feel as though Malorie Blackman didn't do this especially well, as much as you even can do it well.
Profile Image for Beatrice Masaluñga.
1,136 reviews1,663 followers
July 11, 2015
A society where citizens are divided based on their skin tones. Noughts are the white citizens, most of them are laboring class and they are controlled by Crosses, who are the black citizens. Crosses ruled everything. Our main characters, Callum McGregor, a Nought and Persephone "Sephy" Hadley, a Cross were best friends since they were young and later on became lovers. There are so many things happened in their lives. Still their love story is forbidden. One rule on their society: Noughts & Crosses cannot mixed together. They must stick to their own kind or else, there will be consequences.

Noughts & Crosses isn't your typical young adult dystopian novel. The story is unique, powerful, realistic and beautifully written. I shed some tears towards the last part of this book.. MY GOODNESS. THAT DAMN ENDING!! I decided not to read the novella yet for some reasons. This book tackles about racism and injustice,. Their world is really harsh. There's bullying, violence, etc. I love Callum and Sephy because they have an unconditional love, they don't give a fucking damn about their racial tones even if they're judged by other people.

Sometimes, it happens in real life. Quite devastating, but that's reality. Remember, we cannot please all people, but they cannot control someone's feelings of who to love.

I highly recommend this series to everyone.
Profile Image for Padi Gl.
7 reviews168 followers
February 9, 2017
Ich bin sprachlos und das Ende hat mich einfach nur zerstört. Eines der besten Bücher der letzten Jahre !
Profile Image for James.
423 reviews
August 28, 2017
Set in a dystopian 21st century near future British society – the ‘Noughts & Crosses’ award winning series of novels (initially a trilogy, subsequently extended to a quadrilogy) opens following a period of alternative history, a post slavery period where the white population (Noughts) have been enslaved by the ruling black elite. Now post emancipation, it is the non-black population who are distinctly disadvantaged and impoverished in this alternative future society which is ruled and controlled by the dominating blacks (Crosses).

The ‘Noughts & Crosses’ series provides us with an explicit flip and twist on both the history and current political and cultural demographic of British society – where racial politics is turned on its head and power structures are completely reversed.

The fundamental premise underlying this series is a vitally important one – what Malorie Blackman seems to have set out to do, is to robustly challenge (what may be many) readers’ current perceptions, presumptions, assumptions and views on race and (British) society. An attempt to provoke thought and to revisit the absurdities of a society(ies) run along lines on racial disadvantagement and the domination of one ethnic group or groups in society by another controlling ethnic (almost always white) group. The books successfully challenge and encourage particularly the non-black reader to reconsider and think again about being part of and party to, a racially privileged white society – and by extension, to consider the real life alternative in the light of the fictional world that is portrayed here in the ‘Noughts & Crosses’ series. Moreover – to consider the possibility of a third way – a society run entirely along non-racially defined power structures.

This is an original, intelligent, perceptive and though-provoking series of books – and whilst squarely aimed at the Young Adult market, it clearly transcends the restrictive boundaries of that genre.

The first installment ‘Noughts & Crosses’ is the strongest of the series, closely followed by the second and third parts of the original trilogy namely ‘Knife Edge’ and ‘Checkmate’. Whilst ‘Double Cross’ is well-written and ostensibly does add value to the series, it does feel ultimately a little superfluous and does not provide the same impact as the preceding three novels.

Moreover, apart from being politically and culturally astute, what makes the ‘Noughts & Crosses’ series of books so successful is not merely the originality and the ever-present / underlying theme of racial politics, but the fact that Blackman has created great characters who inhabit great page-turning stories which are both compelling and engaging.

These are increasingly important books to be read by all – particularly in view of the current political climate and the ever more disturbing rise in the so-called ‘alt right’ / white supremacist groups in certain parts of the world.

It is very encouraging that Blackman's series of books has been so successful and is widely read and made available in UK schools – as it quite rightly should continue to be.

Throughout the course of the ‘Noughts & Crosses’ series of novels, Malorie Blackman successfully shines a light on the absurdities of racial domination and subjugation of one group by another and the fundamental racist agenda (implicit and explicit, covert and overt – at both personal and societal levels) that underpins and perpetuates this ridiculous cultural dialectic.

In the words of Nelson Mandela (as recently quoted by Barack Obama):

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion…”

Profile Image for Carolyn.
440 reviews1,143 followers
August 31, 2015
Wow, this book is outstanding. I couldn't put it down! As someone who is in her thirties, I wondered whether this book would be too young and the writing immature, but this wasn't the case at all. This is an intelligently and sensitively written story about two friends, Callum, a white-skinned nought and Sephy a dark-skinned Cross and their relationship as they grow up. How society and the prejudices around them moulds them into people they don't really want to be. It's a story filled with tragedy and sorrow but also love and friendship. The story is narrated by both Sephy and Callum alternating with each chapter and allows us to see their very different worlds through their eyes.

As a teenager this book would have rocked my world! As much as Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and The Colour Purple by Alice Walker did as an adult. The frustration and anger felt at the injustice of prejudice spawned from just the colour of a persons skin never left me while reading this book. The black and white racism issue is tuned upside down and the dark-skinned Crosses rule over the white-skinned noughts and treat them like inferior beings. It shows how inequality and prejudice can force people into roles they do not want to be in and actions they don't want to take. This is a seriously thought provoking book and sometimes harsh as the two worlds of Sephy and Callum collide. It is at times heartbreaking, but even with all the sorrow the story is incredibly well paced and I was pulled along with each chapter.

The content is brutal, but it has to be for the story to be authentic. It is also honest and doesn't hide from the fact that the consequences of racism and prejudice can create evil in the form of terrorism. A tale of race and equality, never patronising to it's target audience and giving us no answers to a world that's unforgiving and cruel. The ending is powerful, beautiful and devastating and I cried like a baby.


What can I say that I already haven't said. This is a remarkable novel; brilliantly written with complex characters, moving and thought provoking, full of pain, love and passion. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to read the rest in the series. I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for Rachel Pirie.
53 reviews
November 8, 2007
This is fiction for teenagers so it lacks real depth and could be at times described as a little contrived, but it's easy to read and provides an interesting insight into a world where race relations are the total reverse of the current reality. That said, I'm not sure what message this book was trying to convey, is the message that predjudice will always prevail, or that we should walk in our neighbours shoes before passing judgement. I hope it's the latter but I was left a little unclear, hopefully the remainder of the trilogy will reveal it for me.
Profile Image for alittlelifeofmel.
882 reviews342 followers
May 30, 2018
Alright, it's been about 24 hours, I'm less emotional, lets review this.

I'm going to start my review with like a fuck-ton of warnings.
Warning 1: I don't honestly feel very comfortable reviewing this, so it's not going to be very in depth.
Warning 2: These are my thoughts based on what I know and who I am, if I am ignorant in any way in this review, please use this as a good time to educate me, not yell at me.
Warning 3: I loved this book a little too much to be fully unbiased.

So, this book felt TO ME like a historical fiction retelling/alternate reality. In this book we are essentially in an un-specified time period, but the events follow very similarly to the civil rights era of the late 50s and 60s in the US. But, in this story, the races are switched. You have the noughts, the lesser white race, and the Crosses, the superior black race.

This book really just focuses on the story of a black girl and a white boy who have spent their entire lives being friends and are just trying to exist and figure out how to grow up in a world where their interactions are seen as wrong and, on some occasions, even dangerous. And I fucking loved the social commentary in this.

Not only are we having so many social commentaries on race relations, we are having commentary on sensitivity, why certain actions and certain comments cause more harm than they are ever intended to. How sometimes "I was just trying to help" just makes things worse. This book, in my opinion, is having the discussions that people are wanting to see in literature lately, but was having them 17 years ago.

I appreciate that this was told by an own voices author, someone who I trust would help me understand what people would have felt in this time period, and someone who would tell me things accurately. It also teaches a lot of black history, and does so really smoothly within the plot of the story.

Honestly though, the things I took away were really the sensitivity things. Things to say, things not to say. Sometimes, it's really difficult to know what to say because you don't want to upset people, especially when you just don't understand how something feels and have never experienced what others have, and this book had some really good lessons on kind of things to avoid. I recently in another book review complained that an author used a situation in her book and called out racism and rather than teaching, she just straight up yelled at everyone. This book teaches, and I so so so appreciated it.

However, all of this comes from a white person. I don't actually know if anything in the book is even accurate, if people feel like the lessons in this book were accurate or spot on. I have read a few own voices reviews that actually seem to agree, but I really recommend reading those in order to get more information on this.

But based on the contents of these pages, I just loved every single moment.
Profile Image for Liisabet.
159 reviews78 followers
June 7, 2020
Well, yikes. This had a lot of potential, and I admire the author's intent. However, the execution was very weak: the writing, world-building, characters, and their dialogue were all too poorly written for me to enjoy it in any way. I ended up skim-reading the second half of this because I just wasn't interested or invested in anything that was happening, and I wouldn't have been able to finish it if I'd given it my full attention.
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,937 reviews427 followers
February 8, 2017
Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

This is a very important book for what it is telling you and I think it's very important that the audience this book is written for are children and teenagers. Unfortunately, this means that I dislike it because of that, since there is no theme or amount of excellent writing that will make me enjoy a story that is narrated by annoying, self-centred "AH ME" teenagers.

The plot itself-the story arc that propels the book along-is pretty much a thin, Things That Happen, standard kind of plot that wasn't hugely appealing but kept the whole thing tied together quite nicely. There are a few surprises, but I'd wager they're nothing you can't find in half a dozen other novels that are of the dystopian nature.

However, the themes of the book (racism and things relating to it) is exceptionally poignant and very important. It is at times obvious-which it needs to be-and sometimes blunt-which it needs to be-and often harsh-which it needs to be. I can't say I've read anything like this before but I couldn't help from feeling annoyed that it wasn't written with me in mind. I hated all the characters to the point that I really didn't care what happened to them, except as a whole society. I am definitely intrigued by this world and I think it's a very original unoriginal world and, despite the fact I am not the intended audience, it really did make me think.

If you do enjoy Young Adult novels, or novels that have teenage protagonist who speak in the first person-either in diary form or not-then I strongly recommend this to you, I really do.

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3,595 reviews1,001 followers
September 15, 2016
3.5 stars.

So for the first hundred pages or so of this book, I was really frustrated by the lack of world building. Right up until the point where I was like "Oh shit, every damned book set in a world dominated by white people doesn't need world building to explain why white people are in charge of anything..."

Yeah. Check your privilege, white girl.

Anyway. There was eventually a small amount of world building, just enough to give a basic history of the planet. The world is great, the characters are enjoyable, the writing was compelling. Really, my main gripe with this was that the chapters felt incredibly short most of the time, and it covers a LOT of time in one book. Like, when the book starts, Sephy is about to turn 14 and Callum is nearly 16. And at the end of the book, Sephy is...18?? Or nearly 18?? And Callum is 20. So that's a lot of time to cram into 480 pages.

Anyway. The ending was a little abrupt, but I'm definitely interested to see how the series progresses from here, and the author's note about how the story was influenced by her reaction to the arrests of young black men definitely added another level to things.
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