Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Not suitable for younger readers
Corgi Books, 2002
The world is divided into two - the dark-skinned Crosses, and the light-skinned Noughts. The Crosses are the rulers, the privileged race; the Noughts are second-class citizens, erstwhile slaves of the Crosses, and still without equal rights in a world torn apart by race and class.
Sephy is a Cross, the daughter of the powerful Kamal Hadley. Callum is a Nought, the son of Maggie McGregor, Sephy's nanny. Their childhood friendship turns to love - each is incomplete without the other, and cannot envisage a life apart from each other. Till one day the terrorist group which calls itself the Liberation Militia explodes a bomb in the shopping mall; the bomb wreaks havoc not only in the mall but also in the lives of Sephy and Callum.
Noughts and Crosses is sometimes distressing, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes heart-rendingly sad. It is about discrimination and injustice and brutal violence. Yet it is also about love and tenderness. A compelling, engrossing and startling novel, it makes us look more closely at the questions of colour, class and social injustice that still plague the world we live in.
It is a novel that will one day take its place among the classics of children's literature, if it has not already done so. It makes us think, it moves and inspires. Child or grown-up, everyone should read this book.
Noughts and Crosses is followed by Knife Edge and Checkmate, the second and third books respectively, in this powerful trilogy.