Hey guys! It’s not often I discuss books (my own aside), but I thought I’d make an exception, for now! I wanted to get back into reading, and so I re-read the Noughts and Crosses series. Again. Sorry, it’s just an easy series to pick up. This was just in time, as Endgame, the final (probably) book in the series is coming out in summer 2021! In this case, I might do a breakdown of each of the books and my thoughts on them.
I will also be discussing the TV series in another post down the line.
This series came back into the limelight with the fifth entry Crossfire coming out in 2019, and the BBC series that came out in March 2020. In short, Noughts and Crosses focuses on a dystopian universe where black people, otherwise known as ‘Crosses’ are rulers of the world and white people, also called ‘Noughts’, are the under the rule of Crosses. The series is written by former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, and is set in an alternate version of London. Note that she also co-wrote the Doctor Who episode ‘Rosa’, which explored Rosa Parks’ role in influencing the American civil rights movement and resisted the racial-influenced bus segregation at the time.
When I first read the recommendation for Noughts and Crosses in a teen magazine, it read that it was a forbidden love story, and I didn’t even know about the topic of racial segregation and discrimination until I started reading the first book. I didn’t even focus too heavily on the political aspect. As teenagers, we were discouraged from politics, and is still not taught as part of the National Curriculum. I think it should be taught, but I understand the issue of political bias among the teachers and those who set the topics. My first iota of politics came when I studied Thatcherism for my Film Studies A-Level. If I’d have gone back to sixth-form, Politics may have been a topic I’d broach.
I feel that the more I read these books, the more I understand. Because I’m exposed to more and more in the way of politics, as well as movements such as Black Lives Matter, then issues surrounding Brexit, terrorism and COVID-19, there’s a lot more for me to absorb now than there ever was when I first read the series when I was 15, or even as far back as a few years ago. I feel like the whole purpose is to highlight the struggles that black people face in this world, compared to white people (but reversed in these books because that way, it sends the message a bit closer to home for those of us who were privileged enough to be born white), and even how there would be around 40 years between the very start of Noughts and Crosses and Crossfire, there have been changes to how Noughts were treated, but there are still equality issues within the society. It’s like that at face value, there’s more equality, but underneath the surface it’s still pretty bad, and a lot of the old dogs hadn’t yet died and let the new kids make things more equal.
As it was originally a trilogy, it does sadly suffer from second-book syndrome, where the middle book in a trilogy isn’t that great compared to the others. Knife Edge is good, but it doesn’t grip me as hard as the others. Even Double Cross has a dip in favour for me, but only because I’m not a fan of any fiction relating to the mafia. It’s my biggest gripe with a lot of romance-based alternate universe fanfictions, but Double Cross is still really good, and along with Knife Edge I will still read them. Nowadays, with more information and exposure about mental health issues, Sephy’s puerperal psychosis in Knife Edge is hard to read, considering she has a child to look after, too.
Crossfire was a very hard read at first, only because of Libby’s home life. I could feel Libby’s despair and could empathise with her because of the role she played, being her mother’s play-thing, and her mother being an alcoholic. I was in a situation where I felt trapped and out of control, but on re-reading, I kinda felt more hopeful, despite the present-day scenario and cliffhanger that Libby is in. Nowadays, it’s not as hard to read, but then you also have the false hope of equality, where there are still people who believe that racial segregation is a good thing.
Altogether, I think it says a lot that a book series has stayed with me throughout my adolescence and into adulthood – that isn’t the Harry Potter series! I just can’t wait for the final book, Endgame (depending on if later down the line it actually is the last book).