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on 19 April 2017
I read this recently as it was on the reading list for a course in writing for children. I was sceptical as it was written many years ago (and we were told to read things published in the last 6 years). But wow – this is phenomenal! The writing style had me gripped from the beginning. Blackman doesn’t waste any time with fluffy stuff that’s not relevant, yet she crafts her characters so cleverly, I felt like I knew them really well by the end.
I didn’t expect the ending either…
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on 17 May 2017
It really left me cold this book. I had intended to read it for a long time but I kept thinking at so many points in the book WHY are the characters so stupid? The baddies are pantomine villians lacking in moivation and the protaganists just need a slap.
It gets 2 stars because it is not totally unreadable but I will not be reading the follow up. Don't buy it. If you must read it, just borrow a copy off someone else.
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on 29 December 2016
5* because I felt every single feeling the characters felt. I was Sephy and Callum simultaneously throughout the entire book.

I don't have much to write because I have too much to say. If I start, I won't stop.

A must read.

P.s. have some tissues at hand xx
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on 28 December 2013
I signed up to be a World Book Night giver this year when I saw Noughts & Crosses on the list. I first read this a few years ago when my younger brother (then 11, but with a reading age a few years older) recommended it to me, went on to read the whole series, and have recommended it to several people since. So I'm really glad to have the opportunity to hand out free copies to an audience who might not normally pick up this kind of book!

Malorie Blackman imagines a society where American history has been turned on its head: the dark-skinned Crosses are the ruling class, while the pale (or `blank') noughts are second-class citizens with recent memories of slavery. Sephy Hadley is a Cross, the daughter of a prominent politician and a lady of leisure. Callum McGregor is a nought, the son of Mrs Hadley's housemaid. Because of their mothers' working relationship, Sephy and Callum have grown up together and forged the strongest kind of friendship. At the start of the novel, Callum is in his mid-teens and is starting to realise how difficult - and even dangerous - it might be to maintain their friendship. Sephy is a few years younger, and more sheltered in her upbringing, and remains naively optimistic.

Their first test comes when Callum starts at Sephy's school. He is one of a very small number of noughts allowed, for the first time, access to the same education as Crosses and he is full of hope for the future. While his brother Jude (and, to some extent, his parents) feel nothing but anger and hatred, Callum is determined to beat the system from within: he will receive a good education, find himself a good job and make a difference. Unfortunately, both Callum and Sephy underestimate the prejudice, distrust and open discrimination that the nought students will face. Their second test begins when the Liberation Militia (a nought organisation, branded as terrorists by the Crosses) engineers an attack on a shopping centre, and Callum and Sephy find themselves on opposite sides of a widening chasm.

As well as the clear influences of recent political history, there are also echoes of Romeo and Juliet in the novel - any teenage novel needs a good romance plot, after all! I actually really liked the presentation of Callum and Sephy's relationship, and the way it changes over time (the novel spans several years). Initially, their main concern is being able to sit together at lunch and it's hard for them to imagine that anything could really come between them. As they grow older, and realise that they might want more than friendship, the ups and downs of their budding romance become more complicated and more adult (making Noughts & Crosses more suitable for secondary-school children than younger readers).

I also think that Malorie Blackman handles the core issues of racism and equality perfectly for her target audience. It would have been easy to write a simplistic morality tale where equality is not only the right solution but an easily-attainable state. Instead, she crafts something more intricate and more real, with shades of grey and situations open to interpretation. There are no clear and easy divisions between `good' and `bad', and she uses her characters to really illustrate to young readers that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter (for example). Viewpoints and individual perspectives shift in response to events, certain characters are revealed to bridge opposing sides, and reader sympathies are challenged throughout. For me, it's also significant that Malorie Blackman follows the story through to its conclusion with integrity, avoiding the temptation to tie things up with the rosy ending that young readers might want.

On the downside, I did find the writing a tad unsophisticated. I've read a lot of teenage and young adult fiction in the past few years and I don't believe that the writing needs to be dumbed-down or over-simplified. As far as Noughts & Crosses goes, there are things I like: the very short chapters make it extremely accessible, and the two main character voices are reasonably well differentiated. But I was disappointed by the dialogue, which I found clunky and unrealistic. First, in the early chapters, conversation between characters is used to fill in lots of backstory and blanks for the reader - Callum's parents provide a convenient synopsis of Cross and nought history in a very contrived argument, for example. Second, characters use each other's names far too often - I assume this was an attempt to minimise signposts in the surrounding narrative, but it came across as very unnatural and quickly began to grate on me. And finally, the contractions! I can appreciate that shouldn't've and d'you perhaps reflect conversational speech, but I think it's overdone. I also think it's unlikely that they'd be used quite so often by lawyers and judges in court...

There were also occasional errors in my Kindle version - but that could be down to the e-book editing. I had a flick through the paperback, though, and the headmaster's name does inexplicably change from Corsa to Costa halfway through!

There's a lot here for any reader, but particularly those in the young adult audience, to think about and discuss. Not just in terms of the big questions, either, but in some of the small details: Sephy's sudden realisation that plasters are coloured to suit the skin of the `superior' class will no doubt strike a chord with young readers and prompt conversation about other such everyday examples of inequality. I can see this being a great book for group reading activities in schools, or for parents to read and discuss with their children. I'm sure Noughts & Crosses has its critics who will complain about aspects of its presentation of complex race issues, or certain twists in the tale, but I read it for what it was: a novel aimed at young teenagers, attempting to shine a light on issues that have had a huge impact on recent history and indeed the world we live in now. It might not be To Kill A Mockingbird, but it doesn't have to be: if it blends aspects of popular teenage fiction with historically and politically meaningful themes, and that's enough to spark an interest and encourage readers to learn more about those themes, that can only be a good thing.

And the best thing: it doesn't end here! The series continues with Knife Edge, Checkmate, Double Cross and Callum (a short story companion to Noughts & Crosses).
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on 12 July 2017
When I started reading this book I thought it would be like many other books, predictable, non-descriptive and the same as other books. But I shortly realised that it is none of these things in fact the opposite. I love to read books that have twists and turns and I like books that have different endings. This book was amazing, the emotion and thought radiating of every word was tangible. I am only 11 but I loved this book so much and I will never forget it. I usually read fantasy books but this is a book that changed my mind about the genre of novels I read and I may replace a part of my book shelve for these types of books. I apologize if I have made any mistakes in this review I am actually shaking because I was so moved by this book. I have a strong sense for social justice and I love this novel so much!!
Malorie Blackman I just want to thank you so much for this wonderful novel and I will always remember it!
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on 21 June 2013
Although I am an older adult, since reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, I have been attracted to young adult novels in the dystopian genre, which "Noughts and Crosses" is. I really like this book overall and its descriptions of a hugely racist and unequal society are well drawn. It is of course really a description of our and other societies' past attitudes and racist/discriminatory practices, some of which remain with us today. The action is exciting and tense... and the outcomes are often grim. So ultimately, it is not a cheery book although there were some indications in the narrative that certain brave individuals and groups would ultimately achieve some positive change. What I didn't like was the extremely short chapters and so many of them (over a 100). Although constructed this way because of the author's dual voices approach, I found the particular layout unsatisfying, and it made it really difficult to find bits that I wanted to re-read - This was just not good for me, others might not mind it. Overall, an excellent and thought provoking book and (I would imagine) especially good for young people.
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on 19 December 2017
Enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. Many elements of the story are still relevant today so can fully understand why this book is on many English teachers reading list for their pupuls
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on 6 June 2016
An epic 5* read by Malorie Blackman that I suspect will one day be on the national syllabus. Callum is a nought, an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by black Crosses. This book follows the pain and heartache of Callum's friendship with Sephy, a Cross, who is the daughter of one of the most powerful men (Cross) in the country. Gripping, at times heartbreaking, and hauntingly real - only the other way round. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to see humanity for what it really is.
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on 2 April 2016
The plot of this book is excellent and very relevant to current situations in the world, deffinitely something every white person should read. However the only thing that lets it down is the writing, the author writes in the way I would have when I was 9 or 10, the way the characters talk is so unnatural and it completely ruins any suspense or mystery about the book, it doesn't pull the reader in and dulls any emotions we feel. Because both points of view are from characters who are particularly likeable and don't have much depth, it's difficult to like the book or like any of the characters. Overall it's slightly boring and the writing style is awful but excellent ideas and concept.
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on 29 September 2013
ok right so my sisters read this book when it first came out and loved it so I trusted them and read it myself. They were completely right I have read a few malorie blackman books but this is by far my favourite it is so stunningly written with a good story line and includes a bit of every genre. I have recommended this to a lot of my friends who have read it as well and loved just as much as I have! As heart-breaking as this book is it will make you laugh and cry sometimes at the same time and also makes you shout at the characters as well. I love how it switches perspective because its a very creative way to write and also leaves you always wanting more. I have read the whole series and I love it very much but if it this is my favourite. I would 100% recommend this series of books because they are the best!!!!
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