A boy is finally allowed to go to a better school, which he could not do so far, due to his skincolour. While he is more than happy about getting a better education, he is still being bullied, because of the way he looks. Sound like an awefully familiar part of history?
But what Malorie Blackman actually does in her Noughts & Crosses series, is reverse the historical roles.
The Noughts & Crosses series are dystopian novels about a society that has not developed the way our world did. In this world, the African people (Crosses) did manage to evolve much faster in various areas and therefore enslaved the white population (Noughts). This first novel is set shortly after slavery was abolished, but it is still looked down upon the Noughts and they generally live very poorly.
This is the world in which the protagonists of the novel, Callum and Sephy, grow up. Sephy is the daughter of a very important and influencal Cross, while Callum is the youngest son of a Nought family, who’s mother works for Sephy’s family. So they basically grow up together as children and only later in their lives are confronted with their differences. The story evolves around their friendship and the problems their different social backgrounds bring with them.
The novel follows Sephy and Callum throughout their childhood and teenage lives up until their young adult life. The reader sees how they develop together and without each other.
What starts out as a very basic tale about love and friendship develops into a thrilling, critical and heartbreaking page-turner.
When I first started reading the book I expected it to be a very classical young adult love story set in an interesting dystopian world, but I soon realised that there was much more to this book. Blackman tells the story of a whole society through the eyes of two young people who struggle with their place in it.
While the setting is, of course, fictional, the topics and problems Blackman addresses, like racism, terrorism or prejudices, seem way too familiar while reading.
Although I didn’t expect it at first the book really gripped me and I had to read it in one go. One reason for that, apart from the fact that it is absolutely well written, is probably that it doesn’t happen very often that a book can surprise me and that a story can turn out completely differntly from what I expected.