This review is spoiler free.
“That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way it is. But don’t you believe them.”
Series: Noughts and Crosses
Published: 2008, by Penguin Random House UK.
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy, Contemporary, Teen, Race
Contains: Death, Violence, Murder, Suicide, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Alcohol, Blood/Gore, Sexual Content, Teenage Pregnancy, Rape, Abuse, Child Abuse, Domestic Abuse, Racism, Terrorism.
‘Noughts & Crosses’ follows Sephy, a dark-skinned Cross, and Callum, a pale-skinned nought. Crosses live in privilege and power, but Sephy is lonely. Noughts are considered to be less than nothing, there to serve the Crosses, but Callum dreams of a better life. Sephy and Callum have been friends since they were children, but they both know that that’s as far as they can ever go. Love is out of the question. However, for these star-crossed lovers, they choose each other in a world that is fiercely against them.
This book has been seeing a lot of media lately, having been exposed to more since the release of the television adaptation. I’ve been wanting to delve into the world of Noughts and Crosses for a while, having heard of its empowering story, and after finding the book on sale in The Works, I thought there was no better time.
Sephy, as a character, is an interesting protagonist with a lot of development to her from beginning to the end of this novel. Initially, she comes across as quite immature, naive to the difference in qualities of life between the noughts and the Crosses, however, she soon discovers that not everyone has as glamorous of a life as she does. Her development is beautifully done, gradually drip feeding you information about her thought processes as she discovers the truth about the noughts and the way Crosses treat them. She’s bold and brash, but that’s what makes her so different from the other Crosses.
Callum made for another brilliant protagonist, well-informed of ‘his place’ in this world from the start but that didn’t stop him from dreaming of something better. He’s full of anger and aggression, and yet he suppresses it in order to survive in this world. Neither of their lives are any better than the other, and Callum gradually comes to terms with that as they fight for their lives together.
The concept itself is beautifully written, exploring the theme of race in such a way that is easy to comprehend and visualise. As a young white woman, there are things that I am naive to, and this novel opens your eyes to the lives of others and their experiences with various systems. The story itself is written quite simply, bouncing between the narratives of Callum and Sephy easily with short chapters, and whilst the story fell in some areas, with its dramatisation of themes and slow narrative, and the eventual climax was more than enough to pull you back in.
Overall, I deeply enjoyed this read. It’s a well-needed novel and rightfully deserving of the publicity it receives.