No one could begin to guess at the depth of the hatred I held for Sephy Hadley. Everything began with her and my brother. And that’s how it would end.
Where there has been love, now there is hate.
Two families have been shattered by the divided and violent society they live in.
Sephy Hadley – a Cross, supposedly powerful and privileged – has bound herself forever to her nought lover Callum McGregor’s family. But Jude McGregor blames Sephy for all the tragedies his family has suffered. And he is determined to force her to take sides, and destroy her life . . . just like she destroyed his.
After the announcement of ‘Endgame’ which will be the final instalment in the Noughts & Crosses series, I realised that I should probably continue reviewing the series.
I reviewed Noughts & Crosses at the start of this year and I’ll link the review at the end of this post. And if you haven’t read the first book, please don’t read this review. It will be completely filled with spoilers from book one and book two in all honesty. It’s the only way to review this book properly.
So Noughts & Crosses began with Sephy and Callum. It was a love story between two teenagers who had their families, friends and generally, society against their union. They were the opposite in both race and class but they continued to prove that love defied distinction.
My review of Noughts & Crosses suggested that love would eradicate hate. And you can argue it’s quite a naïve statement and possibly untrue. Especially as Callum is killed and Sephy is left to raise their baby in a society that is determine to keep different races apart. However, I stick by my statement because I think Knife Edge completely emphasises just how much hatred can destroy those around them.
It’s rare that a book can completely live up to the expectations set by the masterpiece of the first. I talked about SBS (aka. Second Book Syndrome) in my last review (Check out my review on Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi to find out the meaning). But, Knife Edge is a classic example of a book that doesn’t suffer from SBS and is equally good in it’s own right. I didn’t love it as much as Noughts & Crosses but it was still very good. (Although, I’m reviewing a book I reread over a year ago now).
The characters began to flesh out more. Sephy’s character development was interesting to read. She lost her childlike innocence that made her annoying in book one and became angry with society, much like Jude (funnily enough). I think Knife Edge was where we truly saw her grow up (and fast) because she had to navigate motherhood. I liked how Malorie Blackman explored postnatal depression through Sephy, especially because I’m not sure a lot of earlier Young Adult books delved into this.
But Postnatal Depression is a common mental health depression that affects 1 in 10 women after having a baby. Symptoms include constant sadness, lack of energy and difficulty bonding with the baby. All of which Sephy experienced. I think when I first read it years ago, I was angry with Sephy for the way she treated her baby. But now that I’m older, I can recognise that Sephy’s struggles were beyond her control. She needed professional help but she just couldn’t accept it.
I also think her newfound hatred for Callum played a part and stopped her from connecting with her baby. We witness just how damaging her hatred can be for those around her. I did like how she started to find herself. I think the first book we saw how just how wrapped up in Callum she was and consequently, it was hard to decipher who she was as a person. But away from her controlling family, Sephy started to discover herself. We witnessed her personal growth. I guess it’s why I felt so conflicted reading her narratives. I was happy for her but I was also extremely sad for her at the same time. I kept hoping that she sought the help that she needed.
Whilst we lost Callum as a protagonist, we gained Jude, Callum’s brother. We got to see his anger towards Crosses and Sephy for the death of his younger brother. Although, we know how volatile and angry Jude was from book one, here we got to see it up close and personal. I think we truly came to understand Jude when he fell in love with a Cross and became less angry. It’s almost ironic how Sephy and Jude almost switched places from book one to book two. Sephy was dwelling in her hatred for society, her family and Callum whilst Jude realised just how powerful love can be. I think Jude also realised just how much he relied on his hatred and anger to live. He didn’t know how to be who he was without it. I think I almost came to like Jude here. (Almost)
Meggie’s perspective was to bring an almost neutral tone to this book about hate. She cared for both Sephy, Jude and her grandchild. I really liked her narrative because without it, I don’t think we would be able to truly understand the destructive nature of Sephy’s behaviour.
I loved how Malorie Blackman also included little microaggressions within the book and reflected how society is dictated by race down to the smallest of things.
“Everything about our lives, the style of clothes we were, even down to the food we eat, it’s all dictated by Cross aesthetic, by the way Crosses see the world.”
In this paragraph Jude talks about the beauty industry of this society and how even the underwear in shops is designed for Cross women and their naturally curvaceous figure. Or how Nought women get implants to make their lips fuller or spend longer in sunbeds to make themselves darker.
It’s a wonder because for me, the Eurocentric standard of beauty is the opposite of what I look like. For a long time, the beauty industry didn’t have makeup palettes that complimented my skin colour. I was told my nose was too flat, my skin too dark or my hair wasn’t straight enough. So to read a book where it’s the opposite in every sense, it really does put things into perspective. Whilst, I can appreciate that the beauty industry has come a long way, this book based on the structural racism within our current society, shows just how much race plays a part in our everyday life.
I could go on and on about ‘double consciousness’ and what that means for Black people but honestly that’s an essay for another day. If you’re interested check out:
The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B du Bois
The Black Atlantic – Paul Gilroy
White Mask, Black Skin – Franz Fanon
Particularly, ‘The Souls of Black Folk’ will explain what I mean by race being integrated into society. So to see Malorie Blackman flip it on it’s head and integrate it so well into her own fictional world, is really incredible.
Malorie Blackman loves her cliff-hangers and as you probably know, Knife Edge ends on an exceptional one. I’ll probably be doing a review of Checkmate soon or definitely in the new year.
If the first book was about love, then Knife Edge is definitely about hate.
And how hatred will not only affect you but those around you will suffer as a consequence.
Noughts & Crosses (Book 1) Review: