Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Well, well, well. For some reason I never expected this book to be so addictive or haunting, despite everybody I know who’s read it saying otherwise.

But I was pleasantly surprised, and while it was a bit slow to start and neither of the two main characters were particularly likeable to begin with, it was an amazing book, with an amazing tale and a bittersweet ending. There will most likely be spoilers in this review because I think it will be pretty much impossible to discuss the book whilst remaining vague about the events. So for anyone who has yet to read the book, consider this a fair warning.

Despite taking a while to warm to the characters I did enjoy Callum and Sephy’s relationship…until Callum went to school. Considering the background he came from (constantly looked down upon, treated unfairly and stereotyped) he can be forgiven for his attitude and the paranoia he was obviously prone to. However, the way he thought of his family and the way he treated Sephy when she tried to help (admittedly she didn’t always go about it the right way) was pretty terrible, and i thought made him really unlikable.

Sephy was better. Yes she was naive and therefore a little annoying, especially when she used the derogatory term ‘blankers’ to refer to Callum and his fellow nought friends on their first day at school, but her heart was in the right place and she always wanted the best for Callum, even though she had no idea how to help him, not that she could truly understand the pressures he was under.

It took a while to get into the story because nothing was really explained from the outset. There references to Lynny disappearing but who the hell is that? Well, you won’t find out for a good few pages. But despite these couple of things it’s actually very engrossing.

You grow to admire Sephy and her attempts to somehow breach that gap between noughts and Crosses, but at the same time cringe at her brashness. She’s actually a pretty strong character, despite the lapse into drinking and her initial inability to understand the problems that Callum faces.

The plot itself went above and beyond the standard plots. I loved that time lapsed when they were separated and then seeing how much they grew up. again I felt no sympathy for Callum, it was really all his own fault after all. His attitude towards life sent him that direction, and in some respects he was more naive than Sephy. Then Sephy is introduced and you see how much she’s grown up. Her idea of fighting the norm was joining a group at school, a group that dedicated themselves to equality between races and I was so glad that she had become more sensible in this respect. I loved that her friendship with Callum had made this sort of impression on her and despite their years apart she was still just as dedicated.

Which is why it was all the more heartbreaking when Callum kidnapped her. This brings me onto Jude. God I hated him. He was the worst character in the entire book, so narrow-minded and ignorant. But it was the scenes when Sephy was their captive that I found the most heart wrenching. The book was a slow burner, yes. Without realising it you get emotionally invested with the characters and their future and you see how much they mean to each other. That in spite of everything they had managed to stay so close. And here they were, Callum holding Sephy captive and having to force his feelings aside.

This was also the moment I softened towards Callum. I guess it was just because of the pitiful situation he was in. It was difficult to believe that their lives could have brought them to this situation and it became all the more sad as the end grew nearer.

By the time Callum was hanged he had grown on me and his death was deeply saddening. All through this book Malorie Blackman’s writing brought it to life. The way she told the story was gripping and I can absolutely understand the success she has had as an author because she has  created this awful world but painted a brief instance of childhood happiness, tarnished by the realities of adulthood.

I understand why Callum got himself involved in what he did, I understand the way he felt and I understand his beliefs. it was just a shame that he didn’t express them so well. But in the end, that just added to the tragedy of the novel. He didn’t know how to express himself, so he chose the route that took him to his death. And this is what adulthood brought him. it’s how it tarnished him, and Sephy too. In a truly devastating manner.

The announcement right at the end was also touching and while I admire Blackman’s dedication to the story and maximum impact, it just added to the torture.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who can read.  It’ll take you on an emotional journey, but it’s one well worth taking.

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