So I’ve been super into Bob’s Burgers recently, and you know that groaning sound Tina makes every time she’s uncomfortable? That’s the sound I made the entire time I was reading Noughts and Crosses My Malorie Blackman, although not because I was feeling awkward but rather because I was wondering how the hell this book got published.
Okay, no, I know why it got published. Because it’s supposed to be ~mindbreaking~ and ~revolutionary~ because, wow, look at that! White people are the minority! Imagine that world!
Turns out, it’s IDENTICAL to the one we live in, just with a different skin tone for the colonizer.
Anyone who claims this book is “original” clearly doesn’t live in the same universe I do. And yeah, I get it. It’s a reversal. It’s making people– white people– the tragic past and present of black people, and the discrimination they face on a daily basis. You’re supposed to read this book and be furious about that happens to Callum so that you can take a step back and realize that the prejudice in this book exists in your world too, albeit in a different form. But when I read it, all I felt was bored.
Here’s a quick summary:
Callum and Sephy are best friends, but Callum is from the underclass– noughts, who are white skinned– and Sephy is from the ruling class– Crosses, who are dark skinned. Sephy doesn’t understand Callum’s life, and Callum and his family are tired of the prejudice and discrimination they face. They try to maintain a friendship that develops into something more despite the barriers set against them in the society in which they live.
So the plot is okay-sounding, right? And it plays out okay too. The beginning is definitely a lot less interesting than the ending, and by the midway point I actually found myself kind of enjoying the story. It’s not original, and felt a lot like To Kill a Mockingbird at some points, and like Mockingjay at other points, but that’s kind of what made it good. Who doesn’t love a good revolution? But, unfortunately, these parts of the book come a bit too late, and by then I was already begging for this book to end.
You might be asking yourself why? Why does this poor book reviewer hate this book so much when she hasn’t really said anything too terrible about it? Sure, it’s not groundbreaking, but not all books have to be! Most stories follow the same basic plot, that’s nothing to hate a book about! So why, oh why, does she hate it so bad?
First off, the relationship between Callum and Sephy. It. Is. A. Plot. Point. If I wasn’t told repeatedly that they’re best friends and that they love each other, I never would have known. In fact, I probably would have thought that they were entirely apathetic towards each other. There was zero chemistry. They didn’t get along, they had nothing in common, they didn’t understand each other at all. But but but they were childhood friends! Yeah and big deal. I grew apart from my friends, and by all means, they really should have grown apart too. Hell, the story would have been ONE HUNDRED times better if they grew apart and ended up hating each other and then were thrust back together when the plot required it. Boring and uninspired. That’s what I would call their relationship. The romance was sloppy, the characters annoying at best, and uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. A forced romance, used only to make the plot work. The worst crime you could commit against your characters.
And second– the writing is atrocious. At first, I was willing to forgive it. “Oh,” I said to myself, “it sounds like a 13 year old wrote this because Sephy is thirteen! It’s meant to highlight how young and immature they are!” And I think I was partially right, because as the characters age, the writing does improve– slightly. But boy oh boy, is it ever immature. It’s so sophisticated, and it makes me wonder if anyone ever sat the author down and told her she’s not a very good writer. It’s a lot of exclamation points– including in internal thoughts– and a lot of dumb questions and a lot of “yeuck!” “as if!” “haha, funny one, Sephy!” type stuff. I wanted to pull my hair out. The writing not only took me away from the story, but it made me dislike the characters, and it made every emotionally scene fizzle away.
I didn’t hate this book. I called it garbage and I really, really disliked it, but I didn’t hate it. I appreciate its attempts to explain race, and I appreciate its accessibility. I probably would have loved the hell out of this book if I was 13 (except I would have hated the Thing that happens at the end– not the very end, but the Thing that leads to the very end). But I’m not 13. I’ve lived in this world, and I’ve read some good books.
Enough to decide that this one is not very good.
1 star out of 5.