Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

“‘Honestly, Mrs Hadley,’ said Maggie McGregor, wiping her eyes. ‘That sense of humour of yours will be the death of me yet!’
Jasmine Hadley allowed herself a rare giggle. ‘The things I tell you, Meggie. It’s lucky we’re such good friends!’ 
Meggie’s smile wavered only slightly. She looked out across the vast lawn at Callum and Sephy. Her son and her employer’s daughter. They were good friends playing together. Real good friends. No barriers. No boundaries. Not yet anyway.

Callum and Sephy had grown up together, known one another for years. Until Callum’s mum got fired from her housemaid job at the Hadley household. But that didn’t stop them from spending time together, from staying friends or from Sephy helping Callum pass the test for him to be allowed into her school. For the first time Noughts were allowed into the Cross schools, as long as they passed the entrance exam. Only four Noughts gained access to Heathcroft, and that would be the start of a wonderful thing for them, or would it? When the term starts it soon becomes clear that many people didnt want the Noughts in the schools and when Sephy tries to sit with Callum at lunch she is not only forced to move tables by a teacher but it starts problems for Sephy and Callum that they have never had to deal with before. 
To start off, this is not the first time I have read Noughts and Crosses. I first picked it up way back in my teens, where I devoured the first book in a few sittings, begged my mum for the second and third then had to wait ages for the fourth to come out! It has been my favourite series for many years, sitting just higher than Harry Potter in the rankings and when the opportunity arouse for me to re-read the series I didn’t need convincing to do so! 
The story is about Noughts – white people – and Crosses – black people. The society is ruled by Crosses, Noughts were slaves until a few years before this story begins and this is the tale of a friendship between a Nought – Callum – and a Cross – Sephy – that isn’t meant to be. Not only is sephy a Cross but her father is high up in government so her family have a lot of money and a high respect in society. The friendship between the two characters is a tough one because Sephy doesn’t always understand what its like for Callum and her age and maturity level sometimes cause her to do questionable things. The majority of the book takes place when Sephy is 13/14 and Callum is 16 and the difference between them is really startling, it comes across so well with the writing and the split perspective of the book really helps the reader gather all aspects of the story. 
A lot happens in the book that I don’t really want to go into detail about because it will ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it. There’s a warning on the back of my copy which states that the book isn’t suitable for younger readers but to be honest, I’m not sure how young that is. I must have been about 15/16 when I read this book for the first time and I adored it. If my stepson, who is 12, was more interesting in reading and at a more advanced level I think I would actually let him read this first book because a lot of what happens in the book reflects on our own society and cultures and it has a great method of teaching about the wrongs of society and the way actions affect peoples individual lives.
Sephy annoyed me when I was younger because for a large proportion of the book she is annoying, especially when she goes through her ‘problem’ mid way through the book, but she’s not all bad and you can see why she thinks a lot of the things she does are the right things to do. Callum is an amazingly strong person and life really has dealt him a bad hand. I wish he made better decisions than he did but obviously not. A lot of the characters within this book make decisions on the back of things that happen to others and I think the reactions really hit me harder with this read than any of my previous because I understood the raw emotions better. Ryan, Callum’s Dad, did what he did because of Callum’s sister Lynette, and Jude does what he does because of Ryan and so on. I really loved Callum’s mum and felt so hard on her but she doesn’t actually get much of a look in in this book. I hated a few of the characters just as much as I did last time I read the books though, like Kamal and Mr Costa and Andrew. Jude is also a full blown ass and I hated him even though I know why he is the way he is. 
my cover version

I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Noughts and Crosses and it really is the best start of a series just as I remember it being, I love the way there is an initial story which is explored, finished with and then a new story comes to light. Its a brilliant linear narrative which really helps with the story telling. There wasn’t a cliffhanger at the end but there was a few bits that you can tell can be built upon, which is why we have the rest of the series! I adored Noughts and Crosses just as I always have and now I’m going to dive straight into Knife Edge. 

Noughts and Crosses was first published by Corgi in 2002. My well-read copy was purchased as a gift for me that long ago that I can’t remember when! A new cover version has recently been published by Corgi. 

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  • TG

    I read this book when I was younger, too. It was such an eye-opening way of looking at race and social divisions. Some scenes – like what happens to Callum’s dad – have really stayed with me.

  • Cait

    I LOVED this series so much!! I wouldn’t say it’s unsuitable for younger readers necessarily, I probably read it same time as you, so I was a little bit younger than you were, and I loved it. The ending, the ending! So glad you got the chance to reread and still loved it (though I can’t believe you rank it higher than Harry Potter!)

  • Zoe Crook

    Ok, I officially NEED to re-read it. I remember reading this about a year ago for the first time and being completely ahahnxsabdyuyfb (yes, it’s a word ;p). The suspense, drama… I was hooked. And the ending killed me! D: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, great review!

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