I was only twelve when I first stumbled across ‘Noughts and Crosses’. I read the first chapter and put it down, horrified at the detailed description of French kissing, and declaring that that was not the kind of book I wanted to read. I gave it another go though, and after getting through that chapter I couldn’t stop reading. ‘Noughts and Crosses’ tells the story of two best friends trying to maintain their friendship across the racial divide, in a society where the dark-skinned Crosses are in charge, and the pale Noughts are secondary citizens. The chapters alternate between Callum and Sephy, showing their contrasting opinions and priorities. Unfortunately, this means it is almost impossible to put down, since you always want to know how one of them reacts to the other! Spanning six years, the relationship between the daughter of the country’s most powerful politician and the son of a family who are suspected of involvement with a terrorist group has endless twists and turns, althougth Blackman is careful to make sure that the politics of the adults doesn’t overpower the main plot of the children’s relationship.
Malorie Blackman wrote three more outstanding books in the Noughts and Crosses series, showing how the characters respond to adult life, raising children, fighting for equality, and dealing with the trauma of the past. But for me, the first book remains the best (although the third in the series, ‘Checkmate’, is still one of my favourite novels). Throughout the series, Blackman shows exceptional skill in articulating emotions that others find impossible to explain; whilst also making you question authority and highlighting things in our society you may not have noticed yourself. After all, when was the last time you saw a brown plaster? Since that fateful day that I turned my nose up at the first chapter aged 12, I have reread ‘Noughts and Crosses’ several times, and can honestly say that it is just as thrilling and interesting as an adult as it was then; a must-read at any age.