Has everyone read Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman? If you’re in your early twenties and the answer is no, what on earth were you reading instead during your teenage years?
Noughts and Crosses was my absolute favourite book when I was in high school (though it probably did share that spot with Harry Potter) and I’m currently rereading the trilogy. It is as wonderful as when I first read it. At least five times as a teenager I finished reading this book in bed in the small hours of the morning, crying under my duvet.
Now, believe it or not, I’m 21 and nothing has changed. At 1am last week, there I was with tears in my eyes. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.
If you’ve never read Noughts and Crosses, especially if you have even the slightest interest in Young Adult fiction, I urge you to go and find a copy immediately. If you have read it, go and dig it out again – I promise it has aged well.
In case you don’t know, the book is set in an alternate world where black people (Crosses) are in charge and whites (noughts) are, as their name suggests, considered worthless. It tells the story of Callum and Sephy, a nought and a Cross, who are best friends discovering the difficulties of living in such a divided world and dealing with other people’s prejudices.
I cannot do this book justice with a summary. It is heartbreaking, emotional, a brilliantly constructed world that can’t fail to draw you in and leave you amazed at the unfairness of it all. And the scariest part lies in the parallels drawn between that world and ours.
Yes, the situation of black people in the western world has improved tremendously over the last 50 years, but it’s still nowhere near perfect and 1963 really isn’t that long ago. And deep-seated prejudices are still evident everywhere – they may not be related to race, but the principle is the same. In my opinion, this book should be compulsory reading for everyone as a teenager, when they’re starting to secure their world view and figure out what they believe.
I’m now halfway through the second book in the series, still as gripped as I was aged 13. I can’t recommend Noughts and Crosses strongly enough. Malorie Blackman has done amazing work. Thank you to her.