For this competition I have decided to opt for Malorie Blackman’s, ‘Noughts and Crosses’. This is a book I studied at school and is one I remember enjoying. I have not visited the book in a number of years and therefore thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for it.
So what is the premise of the story?
Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses.
The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools… Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…
This book undeniably looks at the issue of racism with dark-skinned being the ruling class and white-skinned being the inferior class. It turns what we know racism to be, on its head by reversing the circumstances. The book explores the issues that erupt from racism and force the reader to take a step back and think of the consequences laid out before them.
However, as much as the book explores a world of divide, hatred and ruling, the reader is forced to view such a world through the eyes of two teenagers, one being nought and the other a cross. Although we see them grow up in a world that forces them to lead very different lives, we also see a friendship that blossoms between the two. This friendship later grows into a romance. Despite the differences in their circumstances, which leads them to make some questionable, even stupid decisions, the love they have for one another is unquestionable. They always remain hopeful that the world can change and fight to make that change take place. They do not view each other based on the colour of their skin, but see each other as individual people, with likes and dislikes.
What I love most about this book is that it shows just how destructive ideas can be on society, and on people – as we see with Callum and Sephy. Yet throughout all of this, the two characters remain hopeful and love defies all in the end, they don’t listen to what society tells them what they can or can’t do.
This book is as much about love, hope and will for change as it is hatred, divide and racism. It is easy to focus on the negatives but a focus must be placed on the positives to allow change to take place within the world.
Research into the book:
Here is a quote from the Q&A section on Malorie Blackman’s website:
I wanted the society in my book to be viewed from two different points of view (Callum and Sephy’s) to show how our perspectives colour our thinking. The adage, ‘you can’t really know someone until you have walked in their shoes’, is like all clichés mostly true. That I think was the idea I had in mind when I sat down to write Noughts and Crosses. I think it was Nietzsche who said, ‘There is no truth, only perspectives. And the more perspectives you have, the closer to the truth you get.’
What I like here is that Blackman realises that racism derives from looking through a single lens and that it is only through engaging in a range of perspectives can we really make informed opinions. This book uses two perspectives from both sides and that leads the reader to see their world from two angles.
Whilst their relationship is explored through these life changing events, it is the moments of quiet intensity between them which are particularly evocative. Even though society and prejudices have tarnished both their lives, their love for one another and hope for equality is inspiring.
– review from Paperback Worlds
The story focuses on their relationship, which is frowned upon by society, and explores the discrimination they encounter at every turn. By reversing traditional racial stereotypes and presenting the White population as the oppressed race, Blackman has cleverly shown racial prejudice from a different perspective.
As well as being a compelling tale of love and friendship, this is an outstanding and thought-provoking exploration of the futility of prejudice. A contemporary classic.
– review from Book Trust
Themes found within the book:
Existing Book Covers:
Above are the existing covers that can be found for Noughts and Crosses. All three covers make a blatant use of the symbols for noughts and crosses, with two of the covers relying on the colours black and white and the clear divide between the two. Those two covers portray a very literal interpretation of the story and in my opinion are not very interesting to look at. The third cover is the only one that uses colour on the cover which instantly makes it more visually appealing and forces the viewer to take more time to try and work out what it could mean. The title and author’s name are in red, a colour which relates to both danger and passion – which we see within the book. The symbol of the nought and the cross have a mix of colours within them which I think represents Callum and Sephy who like each other for who they are and not the colour of their skin. The black background is then used to create a dark and uptight atmosphere. All three covers have also used a textured effect for the two symbols, which I think creates a raw and gritty feel, something that the book also creates.
From looking at these covers, I want to try and avoid obvious imagery, such as the nought and the cross symbol and the use of black and white in a blunt way. I think if they can be used in a different and imaginative way, then I will be pleased, but I want to avoid the obvious. I want the viewer to be visually engaged and to take a moment to think of the relationship the image has with the story.