The Noughts and Crosses Adaptation Drew a Blank

*Spoilers for both the show and the book*

Full disclosure: my opinions are entirely biased due to my love for the book. If I didn’t adore the series so much, I might have enjoyed this, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, this was just one of those times where I felt like constantly whining “but the book was soooo much better!” Even if there were parts of the show that were somewhat compelling, I couldn’t get past the changes enough to appreciate it.

I really should’ve predicted that I wouldn’t like this when I got (unreasonably) irritated by the description of the world as “dystopian” (suggesting that the show was tilting away from the alternate history model to make a different kind of social commentary… something that I was soon proved right about). From the opening shots centring on the subject of police brutality, I could tell we were in for a very different story. Already, I could see this was a more modern take on the novels, but I couldn’t quite get my footing as to how different it would be.

You see, initially I was rather taken with the world of the show. While I had the vaguest impression of the setting from the books, the showrunners went to a lot of trouble bringing Albion to life. With its African music and bright visuals, I was immersed in this alternative Britain, seemingly modelled on South Africa during apartheid. While there were some inconsistencies, like a jumble of different accents, I did get a clear sense of place. I can safely say this was a vast improvement on Blackman’s world building… it’s just a shame about everything else.

callumMy first major issue came from Callum. Instead of having the humble ambitions of going to school, he now wishes to join a military academy. Now, I get that they had to adjust aspects of the story to suit the screen, but this was already a leap too far. It immediately takes away his character arc of being a sensitive and intelligent boy, pushed to violence. Of course, even with him in this new role, they can’t fully commit to him being violent from the start. The writers tried very hard to shoehorn him into his original arc, but without any sign of his original personality… which just made me beg the question why make this change at all?

There is much the same issue with Sephy: her personality has been completely neutered. Aside from being a do-gooder and occasional terrorist sympathiser, she doesn’t have a whole lot going for her. Unlike her book counterpart, we don’t get to see what a scrapper she is or any of her interests (beyond Callum). Worse still, with the characters aged up, her naivety isn’t really excusable. In the book, Sephy loves her father, yet slowly realises what he is truly like. Here she comes across as just a bit thick for not seeing through him. Which leads me onto…

noughts and crossesWTF is going on with the rest of the characters?! Jasmine Hadley is not nearly distant enough; Kamal Hadley apparently has mind control powers (cos I’ve no idea how he somehow convinces everyone to do his bidding). And everyone is oddly redeemable- even Jude. There’s no sense of real development, because from the beginning we know Dorne is the real villain and thus all the other character’s evil deeds can (conveniently) get pinned on him. Everything is more black and white in this version, with far fewer shades of grey. Forget the nuance and tragedy of the book- it’s been brushed away for far less satisfying commentary and lacklustre conclusions.

And on that note, the plot is a mess. While I liked some aspects of the romance (because in this case remembering the book made it easier to enjoy) it moves way too fast. The twists about Kamal and Jasmine Hadley are revealed too soon. Vital characters, like Lynette, are written out. Instead we get waste-of-time subplots, like Yarrow Hadley. Then there are another million pointless changes- that only every make the narrative worse. For starters, there was the “blanker” incident, which the Authentic Observer has already done a great video about. Plus, there’s the time when “gentle” Callum fires live rounds at a crowd of noughts, including his brother (?!?!) And the fact that Jude bombs a hospital instead of a shopping centre (??!?!) And for some reason there’s a lot of speeches in the trial explaining said terrorism… which apparently persuade the judge to go easy (?!?!) And to top it all off that Callum doesn’t choose to go after Sephy OR choose to save Sephy until he knows she’s pregnant OR make any significant choices (beyond the supremely dumb one of going off to live in the woods with a pregnant girl… let’s see how long that lasts 😉).

Naturally they also had to change the ending. I could see from the start the showrunners weren’t bold enough to kill off Callum. And clearly they found other aspects of the story too problematic as well- which is disappointing, not because I wanted to be emotionally scarred (as I was with the book), but because the dark elements were something that stood out in that case. Blackman didn’t talk down to teens or give us the longed-for happy ending, just because that’s what’s expected. She had the courage to tell a story that wasn’t easy, that didn’t make us comfortable, that offered only glimmers of hope.

jude noughts and crosses 2Weirdly, the show’s preachy speeches and teary melodrama demand you take the story seriously. And yet, for all that, it’s less powerful. Putting forward the argument that the world is unjust is far less powerful than showing injustices unfolding. Blackman had the courage to put the story and characters first- and the message was more impactful for it. This adaptation put the message first and butchered the heart of the story. Sadly, the only tragedy here is how much this failed to live up to a beautiful book.

I’m really curious- how many of you have read the series or seen the show? What did you think of either of them? Let me know in the comments!

All the Endings: Books Finales that *WOWED* Me

orangutan list

So I mentioned yesterday that I’m being a bit introspective at the moment and thinking about endings. A lot of books are about the journey- but let’s face it, the ending can often make or break a book. Since I’m upto that stage in my WIP, I started to fret about the kind of endings that leave me dissatisfied, but while I was writing the piece I realised there are a lot more endings that blew me away than let me down. And since this seems to be such a great procrastination tool, I decided I should do a counter-post and share some endings I’m utterly enamoured by:

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Poison– no spoilers, but loved the inventiveness of the book and unexpected ending blew me away.

emperor of thorns

Emperor of Thorns– completely bold, completely perfect- this ending was everything you could want from a series finale.

golden son

Golden Son– I love a good cliffhanger- it’s a special kind of torture to have to wait between books when everything’s on the line- I’m weird I guess 😉

Heir-of-Fire-UK

Heir of Fire– what was I saying about cliffhangers? 😉 It was an emotional end to an emotional book. This happens to be my favourite of all Maas’ books- and that’s cos the drama didn’t let up for even a second. And while the conclusion resolved a lot that went down in the book, it set up plenty for the next instalment.

broken things

Broken Things– kind of spoilery, but this is kind of my answer to the issue with TFIOS ending. I love when books are a little meta- especially when that means they mirror an aspect of a book within the book.

harry potter and the chamber of secrets

Chamber of Secrets– this is my favourite HP ending. It has the best mystery and reveal in the series in my opinion. And I simply adore how it was executed.

daniel deronda

Daniel Deronda– I love how realistic this felt at the same time as meting out justice for the characters. While the flawed heroine didn’t get exactly what she wanted, it made sense to me. And the perfect hero got exactly what he deserved. It felt so right.

persuasion

Persuasion– I’m a sucker for a happy ending and no one does that quite like Austen. This for me is the most perfect of all her creations in that regard, because it feels the most earned.

memoirs of a geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha– in a similar vein this appealed to the romantic in me. I love how this book is devoted to the idea that love can work out in the end.

tess

Tess of the D’Urbervilles– I also really appreciate books on the other end of the spectrum and frankly this is that. It’s perfectly tragic.

we were liars

We Were Liars– this heartbreaking finale made me absolutely break down- and I can’t say anymore because of *spoilers*- it’s best to go into this book blind and see for yourself.

count of monte cristo

Count of Monte Cristo– not only does this deliver exactly what you want, it also deals with a complex moral in a clever way.

shades children

Shade’s Children– this is the kind of ending that I used to just pick up and read on its own over and over. Because it’s just perfection. The twist towards the end was great, but really the best moment in the whole book is that flash forward.

anansi boys

Anansi Boys– I always love the way Gaiman shifts the story around a twist- and this is no exception. In fact, this was the book that made me fall head over heels for Gaiman’s work. And that ending- I wasn’t expecting that at all- *mindblown*.

noughts and crosses

Noughts and Crosses– it kind of had to end this way- but OH MY HEART! I will never be over it.

strange the dreamer

Strange the Dreamer– of course, Laini Taylor had to make it onto the list- because this is how to do an ending. I love how it felt both foreshadowed and sudden!

And that’s all for now! Do you agree or disagree with any of the books on this list? And what’s your favourite endings? Let me know in the comments!

Unforgettable Bookish Memories Tag

Well today is pretty unforgettable for me because this my 500th post and I just saw that I reached 2500 followers– so first of all THANK YOU ONE AND ALL for following in the first place, sticking with me for all my ramblings, and for just being your *amazing* selves!

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I was tagged for this a while ago by the wonderful Lisa @A Book Calls, the creator of this tag (and all round blogging brainiac- seriously her discussion pieces are great!), and I just thought it would be a lot of fun to do!

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No. 1: The First Book You Ever Read (Or Was Read To You)

Gosh, I’m afraid I don’t remember the first book that was read to me or the first book I ever read. Here’s a selection of picture books I remember liking:

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All highly recommended for little ‘uns.

No. 2: The First Book You Ever Bought With Your Own Money

nicola and the viscount

Nicola and the Viscount– I bought it cos it said “by the author of PRINCESS DIARIES”- being a barely literate child I thought that meant it was the Princess Diaries (emphasis on the barely literate part). I ended up liking it more than I ever liked Princess Diaries- so I guess that’s a win?

No. 3: A Book You Stayed Up All Night Reading

Every good book ever 😉 But I’ll go with this one:

we were liars

No. 4: What Book Or Series Will You Never Forget?

hitler's canaries

I just checked goodreads and this only has a thousand ratings?! OH MY GOODNESS THIS BOOK IS SO UNDERRATED- WHY?!?! Based on true events, this is one of the best stories of humanity and hope I have ever read. It also comes with some intense *feels*, so get your tissues ready.

No. 5: A Book You Frequently Think About

man's search for meaning

Because I think the philosophy espoused is so powerful and positive and it’s just a wonderfully impactful book. It also doesn’t hurt that its philosophy has permeated into a lot of work I admire.

No. 6: A Scene That Has Haunted You For Years After Reading It

jude

The *one* from Jude the Obscure– if you’ve read it, you know the scene. If you haven’t read it if you want to be slightly mentally scarred, I guarantee you’ve never read anything like it.

No. 7: An Unforgettable Character

rebecca

Rebecca- which is possibly an odd pick cos she’s not really in the book- but we get so much characterisation through third parties that she grows into an enigma that she starts to overshadow the heroine… Gothic genius at its best.

No. 8: A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a single book that’s changed my opinion drastically- I feel like books are better at *waking you up* to things you didn’t know and help you fine tune your thoughts. So with that said, I’m going with:

noughts and crosses

I was about 11 when I first read it and this made me aware of things I had no idea about. I was actually discussing with a friend just a couple of days ago what a remarkable book this is- if you want a book about putting yourself in other people’s shoes then this is nothing short of perfect. It’s still one of my favourite books from childhood and something I definitely recommend for people looking for speculative YA.

No. 9: Share Another Random Bookish Memory 

When I first saw this question I had *no clue* what to answer, so I started casting my mind back and back… and I stumbled on a memory of the first time I read the Hobbit. Now, everyone knows I loved that book. It had everything I ever wanted in a book: dragons, adventure, elves, wizards, eagles! Picture me, a young and immature ape of about 9, so enraptured by this magical world that I couldn’t think of anything else. All I wanted to do was jam my head back between the pages of a book and read MORE. My mum, however, didn’t think it was good for me to be cooped up in doors, so she dragged me out of the house to go for a walk and we ended up in a little wood near where I lived. Now, I don’t know if you know this, but Tolkien based a lot of the landscapes on England, so naturally when I was out and about in something resembling a forest… I yelled “OH MY GOD THIS IS MIRKWOOD!” and ran off into the trees. I never came back 😉 (at least my mind didn’t). The end.

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With that- I tag:

Sam, Noriko, Katie, Beth, Nel, Book Beach Bunny, Liis, Mischenko, Step into a Book World, KellyLiterary Weaponry and Stephanie

And anyone else who wants to do it! Do you have any random bookish memories? Let me know in the comments!