” 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?”
Being a young adult novel, this book was a lot darker and more sinister than I had expected. However, I think this worked in the book’s favour to express a very powerful and thought-provoking message.
What I loved most about this book is that it opens up many discussions and conversations about race and discrimination. This is particularly amazing in a young adult book as it encourages young readers to talk about these really important topics. There are so many branches of racism that were discussed in this book which could lead to very long and detailed conversations but I think the most interesting commentary in this book is the portrayal of the oppressed. By eliminating the idea of race in the society of this book, or at least, reversing it, the author asks the question of ‘how would you like it if you were treated this way?’ in an attempt to dismantle white supremacy. There is even a moment when Callum, a Nought, asks a Cross, whether they have ever thought what life would be like if the Noughts weren’t being the one oppressed but in positions of power, and the other person said no. This insinuates the idea that unless if it isn’t happening to us, we turn a blind eye or don’t give much thought to those who are in greater need than ourselves, which definitely reflects our society today. I was initially confused why the author created the organisation know as the Liberation Malitia, a way for the oppressed Noughts to rebel, as they are described doing many illegal things causing much damage, they are even described as a terrorist group. I thought maybe this might be a backhanded way of saying that the oppressed people in our society today cause a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. However, upon reflection and talking to people about this book, I have come to the conclusion that the author uses the Liberation Malitia to portray how the oppressed are viewed in society by the oppressor, not how they actually are. As a Black British author, Malorie Blackman has undoubtedly been met with racism and discrimination throughout her life that stems from nothing more than an unfair and invalid opinion that white people are better than. This is a profound realisation, as often times people of colour are portrayed as the troublemakers of society when in reality, the real trouble comes from the people who hold positions of power. What is interesting to bear in mind is that this book was published in 2001 for a young adult audience. So, it is safe to assume that not only so much has changed in the last 20 years in the conversation of race but also, that so many things had to be simplified to be put in a 400-page book for young adults. So, I think a lot of credit should be given to Blackman for creating an accessible fiction book about the race for younger readers.
I am glad that I was able to talk to many people after reading this book to gain a better understanding and discuss the topics explored as after all, this book is all about perspectives. Everyone has a different perspective depending on where they stand in society and because of this, the way we see the world and the values we hold could be vastly different from our peers. We see this clearly in Sephy and Callum’s friendship.
Overall, I thought this way an amazingly written and incredibly well down book and I will definitely be continuing with the rest of the series. How you read the Noughts & Crosses series?