As my summer holidays approached this year, I decided to make it a must to start reading again. As I clearly had all the time in the world now away from school and other commitments, I wanted to stray away from social media and delve into what I enjoyed most which was reading!
Before I got engaged with social media, reading used to be my favourite thing to do. I especially loved studying books where we could learn about characters, themes and hidden messages. So I decided to read more this year and accomplish all the books off of my reading list. One of them being, to read Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses.
Before I picked up on this book, I had heard of her but I had not read any of her books before, so I was excited to see what she had to offer ( I love reading books from new authors). A friend had recommended the book to me and after reading a bit about it I decided why not give it a go. What drew me towards this book was the whole plot of it. Without reading too much into it, I found it really fascinating of how Blackman came up with this story book based on society’s role reversal between black and white people.
Quick Synopsis: The book is based on two people, Callum who is white and is labelled as a nought. Him and his family are lower-class, struggling to survive and have little money. Callum is friends with Sephy who is labelled as a Cross. Her family is black and are very wealthy, in fact all crosses are very wealthy in their town. They are friends, to everyone’s disliking, but endure on a powerful love journey together as Callum gets enrolled at Sephy’s prestigious school.
So the first thing that really shocked me (besides the role reversal of their lifestyle) was the names they were labelled with. I thought it was very smart that they weren’t labelled as just black and white as we are today. But the name nought had a very deeper meaning. It symbolised their position in the story – as nothing. Frequently, they were referred to as ‘blankers’ meaning they were nothing, they had no value, they were just blank. Even in the visual way, a nought is simply a zero which connoted their position in society- simply stating that they had none. Whereas Sephy who was labelled as a cross creates an obvious opposite way of living. They are seen to be more stronger and more powerful in their way of life. Especially when you study the family of Sephy and realise the amount of power they obtain. They were mentioned as black and white in their individual family conversations, but the societal term of ‘Noughts’ and ‘Crosses’ were used by people in the book
The second thing that really struck me was the symbolism and the similarities that the Noughts had to go through, which are totally relatable to the black struggle previously in countries like America. Early on in the book, Callum is smart, which means he passes the test to go to one of the most prestigious schools in their town, which is mainly known for accepting black people only. The book captured his first day, alongside 6-7 other teens who passed the test to be allowed into the school. As they approached the gates, they were heckled by Crosses shouting “blankers, blankers!” and of course they were denied access on the first day. Reading this moment, immediately shot up memories that I had learned in school of the Little Rock Nine students who were denied access to school in Arkansas, due to whites refusing to integrate. I don’t know if Blackman intentionally did this, to catch people’s eye out or if it was done to make people realise that this is similar to everyday life now, but that moment really stood out for me.
Overall, I must say I am very impressed with the book. At times, it did drag on to the exciting parts, especially at the start which made it hard to continue reading on. That’s what is hard for me really, if the first few chapters of a book do not seriously excite me then it is very hard for me to read on until the end. Nevertheless, I continued and I’m glad that I did. The story had a powerful ending to it, and without revealing to much, it allows you to realise the balance of powers between black and white people in terms of the government, those in authority and those who have major control, do we use our privileges against people who don’t have the same privileges as us? or have we become so used to the fact that we will never be equal to each other in terms of our social status, especially with all the events happening around the world of police brutality to one particular race.
I would give this book 4/5 stars. It hasn’t been better than previous books I’ve read which have left me so amazed that I had to read it again and again, but this book did come with a lot of messages, lessons and good cliff-hangers, so I would definitely encourage anyone to get this book and read it.
I am due to read 1984 or The handmaids tale next so if anyone has read these books, then do let me know how it is!
Thanks for reading 🙂