Book Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

So I’ve been off-radar for a couple of months….I”m going to blame that on the very early arrival of sprog #3 (all fine just little!) which kind of scuppered all attempts at writing and well, using my brain at all for the past 9 weeks.  It has also meant my reading has ground to a halt (sleep wins) but in the midst of it all a friend bought me this book to escape into while I was in hospital and I couldn’t put it down.

Noughts & Crosses is the story of Sephy and Callum.  It’s a love story – a dystopian Romeo and Juliet, set in a time where the superior black Crosses control society and lord over the inferior white Noughts.  Sephy is a Cross, Callum a Nought and the two don’t mix.

I’m not going to risk any spoilers by saying much about the story but I have to tell you what captivated me about this book.  The writing is lovely; sharp and real.  The characters though are what did it for me.  They jump out of the page and you can’t let them out of your sight until their story is finished.  The book deals head on with the issue of racism in a brave way and some of the scenes are very vivid.  In particular there is a scene where white Noughts are allowed to attend a school with black Crosses which comes to life in such a powerful way – it stayed with me long after I finished the book.

In the note at the beginning of the book, the author says; ‘Noughts & Crosses was quite simply a book I had to write, a story I had to tell.’ which sums it up really.  This is a wonderful book.  Really encourage you to pick it up if you haven’t already.  It’s a keeper.

Book Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I bought this book as a result of reading an excellent interview with Pierce Brown on Goodreads (you can read it here http://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/993.Pierce_Brown). Red Rising is set on Mars. I have to confess the idea didn’t thrill me at first, but the book is in fact a clever new take on the YA dystopian novel (not an alien or spaceship in sight) and I enjoyed it a lot.

Plot

Sixteen year old Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste on Mars. They mine for helium-3 believing that this will transform the surface into a habitable place so that humans can escape a dying Earth.  But Darrow and the Reds have been sold a lie.  The surface of Mars has in fact been fit for habitation for years and they are slaves to the ruling class of Golds.

Darrow agrees to join the rebels and is transformed into a Gold so that he can infiltrate and bring them down.

Once transformed he is accepted into the Institute; a training school for the best young Golds.  Darrow discovered that this ‘school’ is in fact a barbaric testing arena. Students are split into houses and pitted against each other in an outdoor war game involving death, brutality, rape and battles. He makes enemies and allies and eventually wins the game, beating the ArchGovernor’s son. The ArchGovernor is so impressed that he asks Darrow to become a member of his household. Darrow accepts in spite of his hatred for the man and embraces his mission to bring down the Golds from the inside and free the people he has left behind beneath the surface.

Review

There are many things I liked about this book…

Characters

Darrow is a great protagonist.  He is very young but you have a clear understanding of the events that have shaped his character so far.  The other characters are memorable and varied with their own distinctive qualities. I’m looking forward to seeing how they all develop in the next two books!

World – Building

This is brilliant. The book is obviously set on another planet so the world – building needs to be detailed, vivid and rich, which it is.

Plot

The pacing is good – at some times fast and at others steady, but always moving the story along at a good rate. A lot happens, so the book seems longer than others of this genre and some parts could perhaps have been a little shorter without detracting from the story.

Writing

I liked the writing style. It is straightforward and clear but also the descriptions and use of language are great. You get a strong sense of where you are and what the characters are like from their thoughts, actions and appearances.

What I wasn’t as keen on…

The book contains a lot of vivid violence. This in itself didn’t worry me as for the most part it enhanced the story and the characters. What I didn’t like was the violence towards women and the rape. Did it further the story? I don’t think it did.

If you like YA fiction and especially if you are looking for something a bit different, then I would recommend that you give this book a go.  I really enjoyed my time immersed in Darrow’s world and I can’t wait to read the second instalment (Golden Son), which is supposed to be even better!