Malorie Blackman is one of those children’s writers that, to my eyes, can do no wrong.
Noughts and Crosses is the first in series of four novels and one novella, released for World Book Day, that explores racism and its impact on a society in an accessible, powerful and ultimately readable way.
Set in a dystopian universe where the continents have never divided and black people rule over the less technologically advanced white people; it is both a terrifying thriller, as the ‘Noughts’ are hounded by the all-powerful ‘Crosses’, and a love story between two young people.
Callum and Sephy, the hero and heroine of the book, don’t have magical powers, they aren’t supernatural and they don’t spend their entire time staring into each other’s eyes, Callum clutching his love to his oh-so-manly 17-year-old chest at every given opportunity.
If you’re sick of YA that’s as wimpy as its covers, I urge you to get into the Noughts and Crosses series. They cover death, terrorism, accusations of rape, unplanned pregnancy and fratricide, and the students at my college absolutely love them.
Malorie Blackman herself grew up a bookworm, and worked in computing for Reuters before having her first collection of short stories for children, Not So Stupid, published in 1990.
They don’t have magical powers, they aren’t supernatural and they don’t spend their entire time staring into each other’s eyes.Her books include the Betsey Biggalow series for younger children, and many more books, usually featuring ordinary children having extraordinary adventures, such as A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E., a teenage spy thriller and precursor to the genre-defining Alex Rider series.
Pig Heart Boy, a beautiful but sad book about a thirteen-year-old boy waiting for a heart transplant who takes part in an experiment to use the heart of a pig, was published in 1997.
I remember at the time cloning and medical experiments were big news and reading this book as a twelve year old made me want to watch ‘the science bits’ for the first time, as well as crying like nothing else at the end.
She is loved by young readers, leaving a lasting impression, illustrated by a mention in Written in the Stars, the number one single by Tiny Tempah (true fact – if I were her, that is def the thing I’d be most proud of!).
My final reason for loving Malorie Blackman is a little sillier; my first love was in the TV adaptation of Whizziwig. Her series of books about a wish-granting alien was, like Pig Heart Boy, adapted for television by ITV in the late nineties, and my first boyfriend was in it.
His face also graces the cover of the books released on the back of the series, which I now have to look at every day at work. Strange how the world works, isn’t it?