Noughts & Crosses is an incredibly popular dystopian Young Adult series written by the fabulous Malorie Blackman, which has now been turned into a BBC One series due to air this month. It will feature Stormzy playing Kolawale, a character especially created for the series.
Noughts & Crosses is the first novel in this racially segregated 21st century dystopia, where we are introduced to our ‘Romeo & Juliet’ during their eye-opening adolescence. Callum a Nought, is the son of Meggie McGregor the Hadley’s loyal nanny and Sephy Hadley is a Cross, the youngest daughter of the deputy Prime Minster and his alcoholic wife, Jasmine. When their colourblind childhood abruptly ends, Callum realizes his father Ryan and Jude, his older brother have joined the Liberation Militia, a violent underground force who carry out acts of rebellion against segregation and Cross supremacy. Following a bombing of a shopping centre Ryan ends up narrowly escaping hanging however his subsequent death in prison causes Callum to join LM too.
‘In fact the more I tried, the harder it became. And in my bad dreams, it was only when my hands were bloody and I was gasping frantically for breath that I realized I wasn’t in a box at all. It was a coffin. And once I realized that, I stopped struggling and just waited to die. That’s what terrified me the most. I stopped struggling and waited to die.’
The LM decide to take Sephy hostage in an attempt to get the Cross government to release LM prisoners. This brings 18 year-old Callum and Sephy back in contact following years apart, as feelings intensify a baby is conceived, which has dramatic consequences for both their lives. It was initially published in 2001, it was fundamentally important for its representation of race in Young adult literature.
Knife Edge is the sequel which answers the question: what happened to Sephy, her baby and Jude after that? Sephy and newborn Callie Rose move in with lonely Meggie, in order for Sephy to pay her way in life she joins a Nought band with Jaxon, Sonny and Amy however this quickly causes tension. Following an unexpected letter from Callum, Meggie quickly notices worrying signs about Sephy’s mental health and the way she treats Callie Rose.
‘We’re just fighting for what’s right. Being born a Nought shouldn’t automatically slam shut myriad doors before you’ve even drawn your first breath. Being a Nought shouldn’t automatically make you a second-class citizen. What was it about our lighter skin that made the darker Crosses so afraid of us?’
Jude is lying low in the shadows of society while the LM are being heavily followed and hunted by the Police. In an attempt to gain money quickly, he befriends, deceives and romances Cara, a successful Cross hairdresser. However her murder instantaneously propels Jude into the limelight and back into his mothers and Sephy’s lives.
CheckMate begins with Callie Rose being a 15 years old teenager at school, a secret member of LM and increasingly in conflict with Sephy, her mother. Sephy has been singing in Specimens restaurant, her boss Nathan has become one of her truest friends. This causes her to step in when Mr ‘Jordache’ Carson a thug and LM financial backer threatens Nathan and his business.
‘I watched with revulsion as horror after inhumane horror was catalogued and reported in the information film. My eyes were burning, my throat was burning, my heart was burning. Each image fuelled the rage inside me until by the time the film had finished, I was filled with a loathing which blazed out in all directions indiscriminately. That’s when it stopped being a game.’
Jude has scaled the ranks of LM to become one of the most senior generals, his personal hatred of Sephy causes him to extensively groom Callie Rose. His ruthless use of Callie Rose comes to ahead when she is ordered to assemble a suicide bomb to take out Kamal Hadley, her grandfather.
In Double Cross Blackman eloquently explores the dangers of gang culture, the corrupting allure of money and power, especially to young men who are frequently discriminated against. Several months after the bomb explosion, Tobey and Callie are finally delving into the more intimate, romantic aspect of their relationship. Tobey’s desire to give Callie the life she deserves along with his friend Dan suddenly being flush, causes him to get involved with rival gangs McAuley and the Dowds, which brings grave trouble to his door.
‘Every time there’s a fatal stabbing or shooting and it’s Noughts involved, it’s in the paper for a day, if that, and the politicians say it’s tragic and then it’s “as you were, everyone”. And the rest of the country breathes a huge sigh of relief that it didn’t happen in their back yard’