Noughts and Crosses

“I was trying so hard to understand how and why things were the way they were. The Crosses were meant to be closer to God. The Good Book said so. The son of God was dark-skinned like them, had eyes like them. The Good Book said so. But the Good Book said a lot of things. Like ‘love thy neighbour’, and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. If nothing else, wasn’t the whole message of the Good Book to live and let live? So how could the Crosses call themselves ‘God’s chosen’ and still treat us the way they did? OK, we weren’t their slaves any more, but Dad said the name had changed but nothing else. Dad didn’t believe in the Good Book. Neither did Mum. They said it’d been written and translated by Crosses, so it was bound to be biased in their favour. But the truth was the truth, wasn’t it? Noughts… Even the word was negative. Nothing. Nil. Zero. Nonentities. It wasn’t a name we’d chosn for ourselves. It was a name we’d been given. But why?”

This is the story of Callum MacGregor, a “nought” – a white person, a nothing, a blanker. He has no prospects, his family are becoming involved in the terrorist / freedom-fighting organisation the Liberation Militia and he desperately wants a different path, if only the world would let him find one.

This is the story, too, of Persephone Hadley, a “Cross” – a black person, the daughter of a government minister, a person with a bright future. She does not know how to live in a world where noughts are so despised, and her naive attempts to change that world only seem to make things worse. Is her approach really any more likely to succeed than the bombs and guns of the Liberation Militia?

And this is the story, of course, of a forbidden love affair. Callum and Sephy are childhood playmates (his mother worked for her mother) whose close friendship blossoms into secret love. But they can never be together, because much as they may dream about it, the world will not let them. At every turn, things seem to get more difficult for them both. Especially for Callum, whose prospects were so dim right from the start.

This novel offers some nice insights into the nature of racist society, and some chilling reminders about our own world. The “twist” of switching black and white so that in the novel it is the white people who suffer at the hands of the black people was an interesting idea, and a reminder that the way things are is no more or less than an accident of history.

A good one for white middle-class teenagers to read, especially those suffering from undiagnosed entitlement complexes. They will learn something.