I wriggled my toes, enjoying the feel of the warm sand trickling like fine baby powder between them
–Malorie Blackman - Noughts & Crosses - c.2001 - pg.1
Callum and Sephy have grown up together, best friends, and now in their teens maybe their friendship is developing into something more. But there is a problem, Callum is a Nought, and Sephy is a Cross, and the two don’t mix, not in this world. But there are moves towards progress and integration, or at least hopes of that in the future; for the first time noughts will be allowed into Sephy’s school, and Callum is one of the four that managed to pass the entrance exams. He will be allowed in, but he knows that it will be difficult, Sephy is more innocent. She’s just glad they’ll be able to spend more time together. Neither knows just how hard it is going to be, and all that is before the bomb goes off.
While this book isn’t set in “our world” it is clear where Blackman got her inspiration, the civil rights’ movement in the States, and the lingering effects of slavery, prejudice and institutional racism.In a way this book is a stereotypical “Romeo & Juliet” style love story, with everything conspiring to keep the two lovers apart. There is miscommunication when a letter isn’t delivered in time, as well as a balcony scene, and then there is the “romance” cliché of the two protagonists misunderstanding what the other is trying to do/means. But it is all so well executed and believable that I had no issues with these familiar plot points. Instead I was caught up in the stories, understanding their anger and rage, especially Callum’s, and at the same time, being annoyed at him for not explaining things to Sephy more. Was she supposed to just know? And yet, why should he have had to spell things out for her, couldn’t she see the same things he did?
The action and the character interactions kept me interested continually and I didn’t want to stop reading. Always a good thing in a book. It also doesn’t flinch away from hard incidents and decisions. It is a tough book to read in many ways, it is sad and depressing, and there it is hard to see any way it can end “happily”, but at the same time it is so readable. Readable and makes you think, another positive.