Monday, 5 November 2012

Knife Edge - M's Review

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman

Knife Edge is the second novel in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses sequence. If you haven’t read Noughts & Crosses, you can read my review here. Please note that there are spoilers for Noughts & Crosses from the third paragraph onwards in this review of Knife Edge.

Billed by some as a dystopian novel, Knife Edge doesn’t read like one for me. For me, it's much more like a gritty contemporary crime novel for teens. The only apparent aspect that is speculative in Knife Edge is that domination by race is reversed – so blacks (Crosses) over whites (noughts).  While this was interesting in the first book, Noughts & Crosses, it feels a bit repetitive in Knife Edge.

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!! DO NOT read on if you wish to avoid small spoilers for the first novel, Noughts & Crosses.

Knife Edge (Noughts & Crosses #2) by Malorie Blackman
Knife Edge is a story about loneliness, revenge, discrimination and motherhood. It continues Sephy’s story. In Noughts & Crosses, her story ran parallel to Callum’s story. In Knife Edge, her story runs parallel to Jude’s, Callum’s brother. Sephy is now a single teen mother estranged from her powerful Cross family, and she has to get on with her life.  Jude, is a terrorist in hiding, he wants revenge – and he’s desperately lonely.  

Like Noughts & Crosses, Knife Edge is written from the different characters' points of view. But in the last sections of the novel, the story is also told from Jasmine and Meggie’s perspective, Sephy and Callum’s mothers respectively. The novel is also divided up into sections which are titled by colours that make up a rainbow. Rainbows and mothers are interweaved themes that run through Knife Edge and these could make very interesting discussions for reading groups.

Malorie Blackman describes Noughts & Crosses as being her novel about love while Knife Edge is her novel about hate. I don’t see it this way. Yes, Noughts & Crosses might be about love but that is not what stood out for me most. And yes, there is definitely hate in Knife Edge. A lot of hate and some of the characters are truly hateful. But I would describe Knife Edge as being the book about mothers and how motherhood affects their lives and the choices they make: Jasmine, Meggie and now Sephy too (remember, she’s a teenage mum).

Aspects of Knife Edge's plot and particularly the storytelling from the mothers' perspectives reminded me of Sindiwe Magona's novel, Mother To Mother, which told the fictionalised account of a high-profile racial killing in Cape Town.

The ending to Noughts & Crosses shocked me, and if shock factor is what you’re after, Knife Edge will deliver. There are plenty of shockers in it. I didn’t like that but, of course, that might be the point of the Noughts & Crosses sequence – racial discrimination is not a happy life. Nor is any form of discrimination. More and more, I’ve started to notice that the treatment of women by men in the Noughts & Crosses sequence so far is vile. another dimension to explore in reading groups...

On a more positive note, the Noughts and Cross characters alike make some awful choices that impact badly on themselves and others around them. Blackman doesn’t impose her views on the story and it’s left up to the reader to deal with the moral issues that form the backbone of the sequence. But for me, Knife Edge is a bit too dark and gloomy.

Publication details:

Corgi, 2012 (new edition), London, paperback

 This copy: received for review from the publisher

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