10 / 10
From the blurb: Callum is a nought - an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses. Sephy is a Cross - and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country. In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don't mix. But when Sephy and Callum's childhood friendship grows into passionate love, they're determined to find a way to be together.
And then the bomb explodes...
I know, I know! It shouldn't have taken me this long to get around to reading this book. But I finally saw it on offer in the supermarket and bought both this and its sequel, 'Knife Edge'.
And then I devoured them both.
Usually when a book is so highly spoken of, I'm a little wary. But Noughts and Crosses deserves every kind word. Callum and Sephy are fascinating. How they managed to grow up to be thoughtful and fierce in a world that teaches everyone to hate... it's basically a miracle. Much like their relationship, which flourishes even under extreme strain. But, like the blurb says, then the bomb explodes.
Callum and Sephy are slowly, agonisingly torn apart, and their lives take completely different directions. One makes the wrong choices, one seems to make no choices at all. And yet I felt they couldn't have done anything else. Like Katniss, they are the unwilling heroes of this book, thrust into the centre of attention when they'd rather be on a desert island. You'll find yourself rooting for them even when it seems impossible to get out in one piece, wanting them to do whatever they must to survive.
Even as they separate, Sephy's attempts to broach the gap and Callum's rebuffs will make your heart ache.
And Jude! Callum's family are as compelling as he is. His brother, Jude, is a ball of hate, desperate for revenge. I loved him, both in this book and its sequel. His sister ghosts through life, a reminder of the injustice done to noughts every day. She almost serves to justify Jude's anger. His parents, Ryan and Meggie, are struggling to raise children that will make the right decisions without knowing what right is. Seeing the flashes of recognisable family life in this world made the whole thing worse, somehow - I could imagine my own parents fighting the way Ryan and Meggie do.
Sephy's parents, on the other hand, you love to hate. Her father has as much power as one man can, but does nothing good with it. Her mother copes in the only way she can, drowning her sorrows. And her sister, Minnie, is completely removed from the plight of noughts. It's as though she lives in her own dream world.
The storyline is fast-paced and riveting. It felt as though the world got shaken up entirely every few chapters, often enough to leave me breathless. One twist in particular, involving the star crossed lovers themselves, felt like a punch to the gut. And the ending... well, don't do what I did, and read the last page! If you don't see it coming, it'll just about kill you. Even knowing it was coming, it still felt horrible.
Each chapter alternates between Sephy and Callum's point of view - it jumps from one to the other a little too often for my liking, sometimes feeling a bit jarring. But most of the time it works really effectively, and at one point in particular it works a bit too well. Nearly broke my heart, this book.
My copy also included the short story, 'Callum'. It was nice enough, but I didn't really feel like it added anything.
Teaser quote: 'I grip Sephy's letter in my hand, lying on the ground, listening to the sound of all my hopes and dreams moving further and further away. Like listening to the sound of a door being slammed in my face.'