Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman is without doubt the ultimate teen read. As a young adult, it is a great step towards more adult fiction, and it covers a myriad of serious topics that really affect teenagers – and I’m not talking about spots, bitchy friends or strict parents. Noughts and Crosses really has it all – racism, suicide, sex, violence, murder, corruption; the really serious issues that smart teenagers want to learn about without having to shake the dust off old tomes and have a dictionary by their side.
So meet Callum, a Nought, and Sephy, a Cross. In a world where Crosses (black people) are the superioir race, and Noughts (whie people) are still fighting for equality and independence, Callum and Sephy are as unlikely as two best friends could be. As their lives spiral out of control in opposite directions, they both struggle to make the right choices in life, though every route seems to lead back to each other. I love this book too much to spoil it – but have your hankies at the ready, as the character depth and build up of emotion in this story is astounding, and it WILL pull on your heartstrings. I was twelve the first time I read this book, and it truly stayed with me.
The great thing about this book, compared to many novels for both younger and older readers, is that things don’t tend to work out the way you want them. It’s real, it’s representative of life. it teaches us to accept that good people do bad things, that you have to fight if you want to make a difference, and that you might not win. It shows that there is injustice and corruption, and rather giving the message that things will work out if you are a good person, it makes a clear statement that things don’t always work out, and if you want them to you will have to get up and do something about it. The character development really sucks in the reader, who will love, understand and sympathize with every step the characters take, even when you’ll be wanting to scream at them not to. There are no ‘terrible misunderstandings’ or situations that are blown out of proportion – civil rights don’t come easy.
If you are ready to put aside high school dramas and sink your teeth into something great, then you MUST read Noughts and Crosses. Despite the breadth of serious topics the book covers the plot is easily followed, and everything just flows. The characters are written brilliantly, and the subject is given the respect and seriousness it deserves without making the book too heavy. I really cannot recommend this book enough for any young readers out there.
Also – watch out for Jude. He’s a complicated fellow, and ten years on, I still can’t make my mind up about him.