Naughts & Crosses

by Malorie Blackman

Hardcover, 2005

Call number

JF BLA

Publication

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2005), Edition: First U.S. Edition, 400 pages

Description

Science Fiction. Young Adult Fiction. HTML: Sephy is a Cross �?? a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought �?? a 'colourless' member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that's as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools... Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum �?? a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible dange

Media reviews

New Statesman
There are flaws. The white family sounds like a black one. The novel is told in alternate voices, with stretches of dialogue that make it seem more like a screenplay than a novel, and the characters are archetypes rather than particular, individuated people. In the end, it doesn't matter, because
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the story is so gripping and the world of Pangea so nightmarishly vivid.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member ainjel
Anyone who claims this book is “original” clearly doesn’t live in the same universe I do. And yeah, I get it. It’s a reversal. It’s making people– white people– the tragic past and present of black people, and the discrimination they face on a daily basis. You’re supposed to read
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this book and be furious about that happens to Callum so that you can take a step back and realize that the prejudice in this book exists in your world too, albeit in a different form. But when I read it, all I felt was bored.

Two reasons I didn't like this book:

First off, the relationship between Callum and Sephy. If I wasn’t told repeatedly that they’re best friends and that they love each other, I never would have known. There was zero chemistry. They didn’t get along, they had nothing in common, they didn’t understand each other at all. But but but they were childhood friends! Yeah and big deal. I grew apart from my friends, and by all means, they really should have grown apart too. Hell, the story would have been ONE HUNDRED times better if they grew apart and ended up hating each other and then were thrust back together when the plot required it. Boring and uninspired. That’s what I would call their relationship. The romance was sloppy, the characters annoying at best, and uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. A forced romance, used only to make the plot work. The worst crime you could commit against your characters.

And second– the writing is atrocious. At first, I was willing to forgive it. “Oh,” I said to myself, “it sounds like a 13 year old wrote this because Sephy is thirteen! It’s meant to highlight how young and immature they are!” And I think I was partially right, because as the characters age, the writing does improve– slightly. But boy oh boy, is it ever immature. It’s so sophisticated, and it makes me wonder if anyone ever sat the author down and told her she’s not a very good writer. It’s a lot of exclamation points– including in internal thoughts– and a lot of dumb questions and a lot of “yeuck!” “as if!” “haha, funny one, Sephy!” type stuff. I wanted to pull my hair out. The writing not only took me away from the story, but it made me dislike the characters, and it made every emotionally scene fizzle away.

I didn’t hate this book. I really, really disliked it, but I didn’t hate it. I appreciate its attempts to explain race, and I appreciate its accessibility. I probably would have loved the hell out of this book if I was 13 (except I would have hated the Thing that happens at the end– not the very end, but the Thing that leads to the very end). But I’m not 13. I’ve lived in this world, and I’ve read some good books.

Enough to decide that this one is not very good.
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LibraryThing member brokenangelkisses
The very brief chapters alternate between Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a nought)’s perspectives as they attempt to sustain their friendship in a racially divided community. The twist, of course, is that Sephy is black and Callum is white: Blackman rewrites history by assuming that if
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African-American men had intruded into Caucasian territory in the same way that Caucasians intruded into African-American territory then the injustices meted out would have been identical to our current history.

The noughts in this tale have only recently been freed from slavery and are still treated as second class citizens. As Callum struggles to make something of himself in a hostile world, Sephy tries to find a way to reveal her own convictions, without hurting her friend. Reading both viewpoints allows you to realise how poisonous racism really is without feeling that you are being preached to.

Written simply in first person throughout, the story is convincing but increasingly horrifying as the author also suggests the powerful effect families have on their members. The quick paced narrative successfully suggests the turmoil omnipresent in society, even though the story itself takes place over several years.
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LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
What a heartbreaking read this was. My heart bled for Sephy and Callum, two young people from opposite racial and social backgrounds who dared to be friends and gradually fall in love. Set in an alternate reality, the Noughts (the second-rate whites) were not allowed to intermingle with the Crosses
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(the dominating blacks. I loved how Blackman flipped history around and highlighted the absurdities of society, prejudice and racial hatred.

The story narrative switched between the two teenagers allowing the reader to understand their perspectives as they try to make sense of the world they live in. As the reader I felt their confusion, pain and anger, and shared their growing disillusionment. They showed that the power of love can mend bridges and change the world. Their romance was believable and so touching. Despite the pain, separation and heartache it caused, it remained strong and pure, right to the end. The last few pages were horrendous and just left me shattered. Even though I have read this book before, I was desperate for a different outcomes.

Beautifully and powerfully written, with complex characters and full of pain and love, "Noughts and Crosses" is a book that will resonate with me for a long time to come.
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LibraryThing member mkboylan
Book 15 [Naughts and Crosses] by [[Malorie Blackman]]

This book was recommended for the Social Justice Theme Read. This is a Young Adult novel and fitting for that age group. Naughts are white people, and crosses are black people. The story is the traditional one of falling in love with someone who
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is not in your group, and is told from both sides of that experience. What sets this book apart is the depth and subtle insight to these experiences. The characters examine their own prejudices, their own fears of being excluded and discriminated against. Are you willing to die for your values? Are you willing to kill for your values? Are you willing to turn your back on your own family? When you go out of your way to stand with a person who is considered less than you, are you doing so for them, or for yourself? This novel asks these questions to a depth I have not seen in other books.

Personal response - Remember from intro psych classes that your brain literally can only physically form to see what it sees, in a manner of speaking? E.g. the tribe in Africa that grew up seeing only circles and curves, no angles, because they were isolated and did not see any other form of architecture? Their brains then could not perceive angles? Remember the language of a particular Native American tribe that uses sounds not used by other languages and that those sounds then remained unheard, literally, by some from other groups? I've had problems holding foreign (to me) character names in my head, and I have heard others complain of struggling with that. With this story and this setting I was able to hold a different picture in my head most of the time. I could see I was in England, I had no problems seeing black people in power as that is not unfamiliar in some places or movies or books or in my experience. What I had extreme difficulty with was holding a picture of white people in the downtrodden position. The stereotype of white people being in power and being the oppressor is too strongly ingrained in my little pea brain. I just was not able to perceive them as the victim, which of course, I found very interesting as well as frustrating. It is just weird to be betrayed by your own brain.
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LibraryThing member infjsarah
This was a good read. It appears on many top 100 novels lists and I finally got around to picking it up. It was very readable but perhaps I'm a little too old to be wowed by it - I might have felt differently as a teenager. The conflicts of the 2 main characters seemed realistic and you root for
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them but you also know that it is not going to end well. I'm not sure I want to read the sequels but I'm glad I finally read this.
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LibraryThing member lizw9
Sephy Hadley, daughter of one of the most powerful politicians in the land, is a Cross. Callum McGregor, a naught, is a second class citizen in a world ruled by Crosses. The two grow up together and remain friends, even after Mrs. McGregor is unjustly fired from her job as a maid for the
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Hadleys.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Callum and Sephy, what’s different about these black and white star-crossed lovers in this nameless dystopian world is that despite our mind’s conditioned expectations, Sephy, the privileged Cross, is not white. It is Callum, the oppressed nought, who is. Wait! Let me get this straight, I would say to myself at the beginning, as images of poor, oppressed blacks and wealthy, healthy whites kept tripping up my brain. And this is precisely why the UK author's YA thriller novel works so well; she turns all our expectations, everything we thought we knew about history and the world, and turns it upside down, throwing up a mirror at our unjust world.

In Noughts and Crosses, slavery has ended, but conditions for the noughts are still deplorable, something like the American South of the 1960s. Noughts and Crosses attend segregated schools and many noughts, like Callum’s parents, cannot afford to send all their children to school. When Mrs. Hadley fires Meggie McGregor over a misunderstanding, the family is destitute. Jude, Callum’s older brother, is taken out of school and blames the Hadleys, and all Crosses – “daggers – for the injustices he and his family are forced to endure. Callum, on the other hand, has been more fortunate, one of the few noughts to win a coveted scholarship to Sephy’s exclusive private school.

But all is not well. A mob of students demonstrates outside the school on Callum’s first day at Heathcroft and Sephy and Callum end up on the news, with Sephy inadvertently breaking her friend’s heart by shouting out to the crowd, “Stop it! You’re all behaving like animals. Worse than animals – like blankers!” “Blankers”, of course, is Blackman’s fictional derogatory term for whites, who are perceived as blanks, zeros, nothings, “a waste of space”.

Things keep going downhill for the two in this thought-provoking coming-of-age tale as Sephy insists on showing the world that she is not afraid to be friends with a nought. In so doing, not only does she make things harder for herself and Callum, but she is ostracized and beaten up in the girls’ toilets by some older girls for being a “blanker lover”. "[Noughts have] blank, white faces with not a hint of colour in them. Blank minds which can’t hold a single original thought. That’s why they serve us and not the other way around”, one of the bully girls spits out.

The book barely alludes to race -- and never to religion or ethnicity -- but Malorie Blackman cleverly plays with our preconceptions. For instance,noughts want to get tans so their skin can look more like the rich mahoganied complexion of Crosses. In one scene, a nought girl cuts herself and is forced to wear a brown plaster on her forehead because pink ones don't exist. Says Blackman, in an interview with The Guardian,

"If you're the majority you don't necessarily see it because you don't need to see it and that's what I wanted to explore by turning the tables."

The terrorist Liberation Militia seems the only way out of poverty and self-hatred to many noughts, Callum’s father and older brother Jude among them. When a massive bomb explodes in a nearby shopping centre, Jude and Ryan McGregor are accused. Callum is expelled from school for being the son of a suspected terrorist. Jude disappears, and Ryan McGregor is killed by an electric fence, trying to escape prison. In spite of their strong bond, the unjust world adults have created is conspiring to keep Sephy and Callum apart.

Upon his return from his aunt’s house where he and his mother have been hiding out, Callum learns that Sephy has left him a letter asking him to escape the country with her. But he is too late; Sephy has left town for boarding school.

Broken at the death of his father and disillusioned with the world, Callum joins the Liberation Militia, hardening his heart to Sephy and learning to hate all Crosses. Though she believes Callum chose not to run away with her because he didn’t love her, Sephy joins a pro-equality group in the hopes of building a more just world.

The two do not meet again until Sephy is kidnapped two years later by the LM. Sephy is now 17, Callum 19. For those who have never read the book, I won’t spoil the ending.

As an English teacher and high school librarian I have booktalked this book and recommended it to many a teen -- and even to adults. Reading teens can't get enough of the Noughts and Crosses series, of which there are four titles, all with black and white covers and clever titles like "Checkmate" and "Double Cross". The first title is on the reading list for 14 to 16-year-olds in UK high schools.

Malorie Blackman, who herself is black and for years resisted writing about racism, says no US publisher would touch her book (it was published in the UK shortly after 9/11). "I can understand [why]", she says. "It's about terrorist activity - Callum becomes a terrorist because it's the only action open to him."

While the plot is at times a little too abrupt and the characters of Sephy and Callum are not as well-developed as they could be, Blackman has created sympathetic characters and a good voice for the two protagonists. Blackman’s real strength as a YA novelist is in creating an engrossing alternate reality and in weaving a gripping tale. This was my second time reading the book, and still I stayed up past 2 am to get to the end. A highly readable and well-told story that is disturbingly realistic.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
I read Naughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman because I saw it recommended on a Facebook site. It was one of those books for whom I was not the intended reader being much too old to be beguiled by the desperate love story, but the racism primer is very good for someone who has never thought about
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racial privilege. In this book, the people of color, Crosses (daggers in a racially disparaging term) are in charge and Noughts, white people (blanks in their own racially disparaging term) are the oppressed class.
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LibraryThing member xuesheng
This is a powerful book! Sephy (Persephone) Hadley is a Cross, the black ruling class of the world, whose father is the home office minister in Great Britain. Callum McGregor is a naught, the white underclass and one time slaves of the Crosses. Callum and Sephy practically grow up together until
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Mrs. McGregor is fired after 14 years employment with the Hadleys. However, the best friends Callum and Sephy continue to meet and see each other.

The story is told in alternating chapters by the two teens documenting their life and love. We follow them to Sephy's school where Collum is one of a handful of naughts accepted in to integrate the school under pressure from the rest of the world. After some dreadful incidents in their families, their lives split in different directions until they are forced together again under the worst of circumstances.

The novel is disturbing. Neither teen has a happy family life and the pressures of the world around them prove too much. There are allusions to Northern Ireland's IRA (Liberation Militia, a naught paramilitary group,) South Africa's apartheid, and the US civil rights movement. However, it is a thought-provoking book with a well-told story, and I recommend it.

1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up lists this in the 12+ age range, their oldest one. Because of the violence and some mild sexual references, I think it would be best at 14+.
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LibraryThing member tinfoilspider13
I have to be honest, im not one for leaving lengthy wordy reviews, if any, of the books ive read. dont know why. Just the way i am. But i have to be honest, i struggled to get into this one. it just felt a bit flat and didnt seem to get anywhere soon. still, i stuck with it. wish i hadnt. dont get
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me wrong, i understand the message behind the story, and i understand it is a youth read, but having now finished it i feel quite strongly that i wouldnt be happy about teens reading this because of the ending. there was nothing positive about it and i felt quite disturbed that something like that would be put in a teen novel. I read alot of crime and suspense novels, and with those you expect the violence and death. I just dont feel it belongs in books like these. i read it because it had a good rating but i for one cannot give it a similar review.
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
Callum McGregor and Sephy Hadley have been best friends for as long as they remember. But recently their feelings for each other have begun to develop into something...stronger. Unfortunately, Sephy is a member of the dark-skinned upper class of Cross, and Callum is a pale-skinned, low-class
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Nought. The teens' romantic problems intensify when Callum's family gets caught up in a terrorist liberation organization that Sephy's father (a politician) has sworn to stamp out. Sephy and Callum must learn to love each other in a tumultuous world of hatred. Does this scream out "star-crossed lover" to you? But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

I've heard fantastic things about this book, but I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be. Maybe it's just because I wasn't in the mood to read depressing race-relations books (and they're all a bit depressing, aren't they?), but this book wasn't a slap in the face of my preconceived notions. It was just another book about racism, much like a book written about a white girl and teenaged member of the Black Panthers. The whole skin-color switcharoo seemed like an unnecessary literary device to me. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it was a bad book...I was just expecting more amazingness, that's all. It was a tragically-sweet love story about a very important issue - racism, and the ease with which we can be swept away by other people's causes. But I think the book would have been more powerful if she'd focused on the realism of the story instead of trying to build a new world that was simply too similar to our own to justify the effort of creation.
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LibraryThing member edspicer
This book was the best book I’ve ever read and everyone absolutely had to read it. It was a great page turner, I couldn’t put it down. I read this book because my friend recommended it to me, so I agreed to read it.
LibraryThing member ritakhavich
One of the greatest and most difficult books I ever read. I stumbled upon it accidentally but never regretted it since, going on to read the whole thought-provoking series. Blackman makes you think about your life and your world through her characters - ones you can't help but fall in love with. I
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highly recommend this book to everyone! (Not for young children)
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LibraryThing member gogglemiss
This was a very popular book at my library, as I had to wait ages for my turn to read it, and it was well worth the wait. It's a sad story about two disintergration of two familiies who destroy themselves through racial prejudice. Callum and Stephy were the forbidden sweethearts. Each family had
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their deep rooted problems. Written in the first person, alternately by Callum and Sephy, this was an absorbing read and memorable.
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LibraryThing member Alex123456789
I think this book is excellent because it reminds me of the slave trade but in noughts and crosses it's the opposite way round so the crosses are in control and the noughts are second rate basically. So it give another side to realite.
I think this is a 5 star rating book. AWESOME!!! :)
LibraryThing member Annicnia
The best book in the trilogy. Exellent and exiting so you just can't put it down.
LibraryThing member BridgetsBookNook
Well, I don't exactly know what can be said about this book that hasn't already been said.

I did really enjoy the book. I think the only reason I didn't finish it sooner was because I had other things I had to do and sleep! :o)

I loved the characters, with the exception of a few. The ending was
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heart wrenching and I wish it could have ended another way.

I enjoyed the story being told in a different point of view when it came to the way things are between the races. It's something I'm sure has been thought about by people throughout history, and someone was bold enough to put it to paper!

The only reason I gave it a 4/5 and not a full 5/5 was that I did get bored with it a few times and not totally sure why. But it was still wonderful none-the-less. :-)
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LibraryThing member PrincessHeart1997
Personally, i loved this book! :L

I have been waiting fot it for over 5 months on the library list, shows how many people wanted it!

Just finished reading it, it was amazing. I plot was very imaginative swapping racisium round was an awesome idea! I like how it wasn't completely focused on Callum and
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stephy love realtionship, but there home realtionships and there family and frieds views and action and everything i like. It also a had a hint of humor glinting though out the depressness of times.

The characters are proberly some i'll remember for a very long time, the way it's written showed how diffrently they think!

I didn't like the ending, well i did, good there wasn't a happy one that would be jsut so boring, but i love callum! Meanie! :L
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LibraryThing member Katya0133
"Brutal" is the word for "Naughts & Crosses." Even if you see where the story is headed (or perhaps especially if you do), it's grueling to watch the characters move inexorably towards their respective fates.

The story is set in a sort of alternate reality where dark-skinned people ("crosses") are
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the upper class and light-skinned people ("naughts") are the lower class. The naughts used to be the slaves of the crosses; now they're free, but their lives haven't improved much. And now the son of a naught and the daughter of a cross have dared to overturn social convention by falling in love.

The premise sounds like it could be cheesy, but the author actually pulls it off pretty well, largely because she makes every main character at least a little sympathetic. So even though you don't agree with the naughts who have turned terrorist and the crosses who are pulling the strings to maintain the status quo, you at least understand their motivations.

One of the advantages of a story like this where the history of race relations is turned on its head is that it allows the reader to examine the ways in which different races interact with a degree of impartiality, since this fictional world both is and isn't the same as our own.

I came away from this book determined to be a better person, which is a bigger effect than most books have on me.
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LibraryThing member saltypepper
Naughts & Crosses is interesting. it's similar to that movie with John Travolta and Sidney Poitier in which the history has flipped and whites are the oppressed and blacks are running the show. However, this is a YA novel, and it's written by a black woman which means, among other things, that the
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myriad little ways privilege plays out, especially unconciously, are well-represented and that the ending is not trite or Hollywood-ish. Overall, I had mixed feelings about it, especially when I heard that schools have started including it in their curricula, not just their libraries. IMO, it's hard to teach race relations well, especially if the teacher has not thoroughly examined her/his own baggage. Also, I suppose one could use this as an example when discussing whether racism/prejudice still exists in Great Britain/Europe since the author is British, even though the setting for the books is a fictional distopia. It's first in a series. I might check out the others.
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LibraryThing member edspicer
This book had a really good plot. Twist on normal life. Although the ending is kind of a bummer. I read this on a friend’s recommendation.
LibraryThing member LibraryLou
This is an amazing book that challenges our perception of racial discrimination. it is emotionally charged, and tells the story of 2 teenagers who fall in love, only they are not supposed to, and the consequences of their relationship will far outreach their own immediate family.
Romeo and Juliet
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with a twist
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LibraryThing member MsBridgetReads
Well, I don't exactly know what can be said about this book that hasn't already been said.

I did really enjoy the book. I think the only reason I didn't finish it sooner was because I had other things I had to do and sleep! :o)

I loved the characters, with the exception of a few. The ending was
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heart wrenching and I wish it could have ended another way.

I enjoyed the story being told in a different point of view when it came to the way things are between the races. It's something I'm sure has been thought about by people throughout history, and someone was bold enough to put it to paper!

The only reason I gave it a 4/5 and not a full 5/5 was that I did get bored with it a few times and not totally sure why. But it was still wonderful none-the-less. :-)
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LibraryThing member martensgirl
I think this book has a good plot, but I found the characters a bit flat and I didn't believe the development of Callum's character,
LibraryThing member OBridget1
Well, I don't exactly know what can be said about this book that hasn't already been said.

I did really enjoy the book. I think the only reason I didn't finish it sooner was because I had other things I had to do and sleep! :o)

I loved the characters, with the exception of a few. The ending was
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heart wrenching and I wish it could have ended another way.

I enjoyed the story being told in a different point of view when it came to the way things are between the races. It's something I'm sure has been thought about by people throughout history, and someone was bold enough to put it to paper!

The only reason I gave it a 4/5 and not a full 5/5 was that I did get bored with it a few times and not totally sure why. But it was still wonderful none-the-less. :-)
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LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
I might have really connected with this if I were a teen, but as an adult, I thought the romance got in the way of the story and as a result more could have been done on the topic of racism.

Pages

400

ISBN

1416900160 / 9781416900160
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