Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Naughts & Crosses

Naughts & Crosses

Marjorie Blackman
For ages 14 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2005   ISBN: 978-1416900160

Callum and Sephy have grown up together. When they were little they played with each other all the time, unaware that an invisible gulf lay between them. However, as they have grow older, they have come to understand that their friendship is a rare and forbidden thing. The reason for this is that Callum is a white naught and Sephy is a dark skinned Cross. For hundreds of years naughts were kept as slaves by their Cross overlords. Now the naughts are free but they still do not have all the rights and opportunities that the Crosses have. Naughts cannot finish high school or get a college education, and they can only get menial jobs.

Though they live in very different worlds, Callum and Sephy still see each other when they can. After Callum manages to get into Sephy's school, life for both young people gets more and more complicated. Callum's brother Jude joins a violent naught liberation group, and Sephy's mother becomes a full blown alcoholic. Sephy has always had a life of privilege because her father is a powerful and wealthy government official. Because of this she does not really understand what it is like to be a naught, though she is sympathetic and tries to do what she thinks is right.

Despite all their efforts, Callum and Sephy get swept up by events that are out of their control and they find themselves having to make terrifying and sometimes frightful decisions.

In this very powerful and often disturbing book Marjorie Blackman shows her readers what it would be like if the racial situation in our world was reversed. White readers will come to appreciate what it is like to be picked on and singled out for abuse because of race. They will see how it would feel to live in a society where black, and not white, is beautiful. For black readers the story serves as a reminder that racial prejudice can indeed go both ways. In addition to the race issue, the author shows her audience why people turn to violence and why they feel that they have no choice but to resort to terrorism to try to get what is rightfully theirs. Combined, these two elements make this a book that is meaningful, memorable, and very thought-provoking.