Noughts & Crosses (novel series)
The "Noughts & Crosses" series by English author Malorie Blackman is a critically acclaimed series of young adult novels, including a novella, set in a fictional, racist dystopia. In 2003, Noughts & Crosses was listed at number 61 on the BBC's survey The Big Read and was one of the twenty titles handed out in the UK for World Book Night on 23 April 2013.
Noughts & Crosses
|Noughts & Crosses series of 16|
Noughts & Crosses Front Cover
|Series||Noughts & Crosses Saga|
|Subject||Forbidden love, Racism|
|Genre||Young-adult fiction, Action, Adventure, Romance|
|Followed by||Knife Edge|
This novel describes an alternative history where humans evolved while Pangaea was still intact. Without the barriers to exchange of domesticable animals, among other factors, the African people gained a technological and organizational advantage over the Europeans rather than the other way around, and made Europeans their slaves. At the time of the story, slavery has been abolished, but Jim-Crow type segregation operates to keep the Crosses (the Africans) in control of the noughts (Europeans). Also, the close proximity of the various nations of the world in a single supercontinent and the lack of natural defences have forced the nations of the world to learn to cooperate. An organization called the Pangaean Economic Community exists, and seems to be similar to the United Nations in scope but similar to the European Union in powers, and it is playing a role in forcing change.
Sephy Hadley is a Cross (meaning that she has dark skin) and the daughter of a wealthy politician named Kamal. Callum McGregor is a nought (meaning that he has light skin). They used to play together when Jasmine Hadley (Sephy's mother) employed Meggie McGregor (Callum's mother) as a Nanny. However, Jasmine fired her when Meggie could not provide an alibi for Jasmine when her husband confronted her about his suspicions of her infidelity (this is only revealed later in the novel, though it is strongly implied). Since then, Sephy and Callum's friendship has been secret. As best friends, their relationship is frowned upon by society, in the same way that interracial friendships in the Southern United States were thought of before 1960, but in reverse.
Callum is one of the first noughts to start at Heathcroft High, a school for mainly Crosses and only the highest performing Noughts. Sephy is overjoyed to find Callum has joined her class. But the majority of her classmates will not accept that she wants to associate with a nought. Their friendship goes from strength to strength as Callum's brother and father join the Liberation Militia (LM), a violent terrorist organisation supposedly aimed at promoting equality between the two races, and Sephy's mother becomes an alcoholic. They develop a more intimate connection.
Callum's troubled elder sister, Lynette, commits suicide by throwing herself in front of a bus. Only Callum knows it was suicide (she left him a secret note); the rest of the family take it as a tragic accident. Later, Callum's elder brother, Jude, and father, Ryan, are accused of a lethal shopping centre bombing committed by the Liberation Militia; Callum is expelled from school and Ryan faces the gallows. Jasmine, remembering that she used to be friends with the McGregor family, secretly hires a prominent lawyer to defend Ryan and he escapes hanging. However, he must serve a lifetime in jail and is killed by an electric fence while trying to escape the prison.
Sephy decides she wants a new start and pleads her mother let her attend the boarding school Chivers. After a lot of hesitation, she gives her permission. She has not heard from Callum for a week, so she writes him a letter asking him to run away with her and telling him that she will be leaving for Chivers boarding school if he doesn't contact her. However, Callum has decided to join the Liberation Militia, against the wishes of his mother, and does not read the letter until just before Sephy leaves. Callum sprints to Sephy's house and tries to catch up with the car as it pulls out of the driveway, but fails. Having not seen Callum running behind, Sephy concludes that their friendship is no longer as important to him as she thought it was. Later, they both speculate in misery about what might have been if she had seen him.
Years later, Sephy returns home from Chivers. She enters the house and discovers that Callum had left her a letter, telling her to meet him at the family's private beach. Sephy decides to meet up with him, but later she finds out that Callum is there with others from the LM to kidnap her and hold her hostage. Callum's older brother, Jude, punches Sephy in the stomach, and they take her to their hideout. The members of the LM deliver a message to Kamal Hadley telling him to release at least five Liberation Militia members from prison and pay a sum of money if he wants to see Sephy alive. The LM General's second in command, Andrew Dorn, visits Callum and his cell members, but little do they know that he secretly works for Kamal Hadley. He informs Kamal of the whereabouts of two of the LM team members while they are making phone calls. One is killed and the other put in jail.
While this is happening, Callum visits a hurt Sephy in the room where she is being held. Callum reveals to Sephy that he only read her letter 20 minutes before she left and he ran all the way to catch up with her. Their love rekindles and, after Callum whispers that he loves her, they have sex. Afterwards, Sephy cannot seem to stop crying, and Jude walks in. He calls Callum an idiot for raping her though Callum denies that it is rape. They get into a fight and Sephy finds her chance to escape.
Sephy escapes into the woods and is soon chased by Jude and Morgan (the other survivor). Callum finds her and leads the others the wrong way. Callum then gives Sephy instructions to escape and she tells him of Andrew Dorn allegiances before she escapes. The three Liberation Militia members agree to split up and keep a low profile for six months, and meet up again on Callum's birthday.
Sephy feels an unusual tummy bug come on. Her sister Minerva asks if she is pregnant, which Sephy denies. But she takes a pregnancy test that reveals she is pregnant with Callum's child. Meanwhile, Callum is working as a mechanic and hears Kamal Hadley on the radio, denying rumours that his daughter is pregnant. Callum furiously smashes the radio against the wall, and runs off. Sephy's parents learn of her pregnancy and try to persuade her to have an abortion, which Sephy refuses to do.
Callum then meets with Sephy in the Hadley's rose garden. Sephy confirms the rumours and they decide on names for the child: Ryan (after Callum's father) if it is a boy, and Callie Rose if it is a girl. Callum is found in the rose garden and arrested. Sephy tries to explain to everyone that it was not rape and that in fact they made love, but nobody listens. Callum has his trial and is sentenced to be hanged. Kamal tells Sephy that if she keeps her child Callum will hang, but if she has the abortion then he can save him. He says the same thing to Callum, who then also questions the value of his life over his child. Sephy decides to keep the baby.
On the day of Callum's hanging, he asks his guard Jack to deliver a letter to Sephy, personally. The prison guards then come to lead Callum to the gallows. He searches, to no avail, for Sephy in the crowd before his hood is put on, and he obeys. He then hears Sephy's voice shouting "I love you," so he shouts it back. The story ends with Sephy watching the trapdoor open and seeing Callum's limp, lifeless body hanging from the noose.
An Eye For an Eye
A novella that gives an insight to the events of Knife Edge. Written for World Book Day, 2003, it has been republished in a new edition of Noughts & Crosses. An Eye For an Eye describes one evening while Sephy is pregnant with Callie Rose, when her sister Minerva visits her. However, soon afterwards Jude arrives to murder Sephy, but when he arrives everything goes wrong for him...
The story begins with Jude (Callum's older brother) watching Sephy enter her apartment building, and it is revealed that he is planning to kill her. Unfortunately for him, Minerva, Sephy's sister, is in Sephy's apartment. Minerva tries to convince Sephy to move back in with her and their mother, Jasmine. Sephy refuses, and tries to make Minerva leave, just as Jude enters the apartment. (It is revealed that Sephy knew that Jude had been following her and was coming to kill her, explaining why she tried to make Minerva leave.) Sephy tells Jude that she knew that he intended to kill her just before midnight, since it was Callum's birthday that day. Jude feels that Sephy is responsible for Callum's death and wants to make sure Sephy won't live to see Callum's next birthday, as Callum hadn't lived to see his next birthday. Sephy is not alarmed and does not protest, but Minerva panics. Sephy tells Jude that he would be doing her a favour by killing her, and wants to die, because she misses Callum. When Minerva tries to change her mind, Sephy declares that she hates the baby, because it was alive and Callum was not, and it should have been the other way around. (This is a lie, and Sephy later threatens to kill Jude if he ever hurts her child.)
Sephy begins to provoke Jude, saying that she and Callum loved each other, and telling him that her father (Kamal Hadley) offered her a choice: that she could keep the baby and let Callum be hanged or get an abortion and save his life; he would only be imprisoned. Jude loses his temper and tries to shoot Sephy, but his gun jams. Minerva, in an attempt to save Sephy and herself, runs towards the front door screaming to attract attention. Not only does this not work, but Jude also shoots her in the shoulder. He realizes that because Sephy seriously wanted to die, killing her would be to do her a favour, and he wants to make her suffer instead.
Jude gives Sephy permission to call an ambulance for her sister, and tells her that he knows she cares about her sister and her family, and especially her child. He then tells her that he plans to use her child to hurt her. Sephy threatens to kill him if he hurts her child, and Jude leaves just as the ambulance arrives, with a new plan in mind.
Knife Edge Front Cover
|Series||Noughts & Crosses Saga|
|Publication date||5 February 2004|
|Preceded by||Noughts & Crosses|
Sephy is a Cross, the privileged group in a society where Crosses treat noughts as inferiors, but her daughter Callie Rose's father Callum is a nought. Callum's brother Jude blames Sephy for the terrible losses his family has suffered and is determined to destroy Sephy's life by any means necessary. He meets Cara, a Cross, and befriends her to access her money.
Sephy, living with Callum's mother Meggie, becomes increasingly fond of her daughter, Callie Rose. Sephy receives a letter, supposedly written by Callum before he died, saying he never loved her and he cannot believe she was stupid enough to fall for him. Meggie refuses to believe the letter but Sephy becomes extremely depressed. She meets Jaxon, a hot-tempered man with a band, the Midges. He offers Sephy a singing part but the noughts are prejudiced against her because she is a Cross. She begins to neglect Callie Rose.
Cara spends a lot of time with Jude. Although he loathes Crosses he begins to fall in love with her. Frustrated and confused with the feelings he has for a Cross, Jude beats her severely, and she later dies as a result. Jude is charged with Cara's murder and faces a virtually certain death sentence.
Sephy struggles with seeing Meggie losing the last remaining member of her family. Sephy decides, for Meggie's sake, to pretend to be Jude's alibi for Cara's death. This works, and after serving a few months in prison for Liberation Militia (LM) membership, Jude is freed—he even manages to accuse senior LM leader Andrew Dorn of Cara's murder, and out him as a government informer, resulting in Dorn's swift "execution". Jude, despite Sephy saving his miserable life, still holds his grudge against her and is still plotting terrible revenge.
Sephy's life begins to fall apart. The Crosses hate her because she helped Jude escape the noose and the noughts because she did not come to his aid sooner. She suffers from post-natal depression, which results in her hugging her daughter too tightly while singing the famous song "Rainbow Child". Callie Rose stops breathing and the book ends with Meggie screaming, "What have you done?" at Sephy. After a few more chapters, the book concludes with a lot of suspense.
Checkmate Front Cover
|Series||Noughts & Crosses Saga|
|Publication date||30 June 2005|
|Preceded by||Knife Edge|
|Followed by||Double Cross|
Callie Rose struggles with growing up as a half nought and half cross, when she learns the truth about her nought father's life from her friend Tobey; who calls her a terrorist's daughter, she becomes angry with her mother Sephy for hiding the truth and decides to follow Callum's path with her new hate filled personality. She also cuts off her friendship with nought Tobey, regardless of how sorry he is. Sephy feels trapped and rejects an offer of marriage from her boyfriend Sonny. Sephy then meets Nathan, the owner of the restaurant where she sings, and the two start a relationship. Callie Rose withdraws into her uncle Jude's clutches and he grooms her to become a suicide bomber in order to murder Sephy's father, Kamal Hadley. In the intervening years, Jude had become "the General", the fearsome commander of the Liberation Militia nought guerrillas.
Callie Rose starts dating the Cross Lucas, an ex friend's brother. Jasmine Hadley, Sephy's mother, does what she can to bring Callie and Sephy closer together but develops breast cancer and struggles with her life. In a moment of weakness she drinks a glass of wine, breaking her previous vow to never drink alcohol again. Nathan proposes to Sephy, and she accepts; but then Sonny shows up in her life again and she is left confused but engaged. Eventually, Sephy is given a letter written by Callum before he was hanged. It is the letter expressing his true feelings. The letter Sephy received in the second book had been an attempt to persuade Sephy to move on after his death. In this letter it is revealed that Callum did, indeed, love her more than anything. In the end, Sephy and Callie Rose resume their relationship, as Jasmine trapped them in her wine cellar, to sort things out, while Jude and Jasmine (in pain from cancer) die together when Jasmine sets off Callie's bomb, in order to prevent Jude from hurting Callie and Sephy any more. Also, Kamal Hadley's attempt to become the next prime minister in the next election is foiled when his ex-wife Jasmine tells the press about his treacherous past, and some of the deals he was involved in.
Double Cross Front Cover
|Series||Noughts & Crosses Saga|
|Publication date||November 2008|
Everyone assumes the bomb that killed Callie Rose's grandmother was the work of a nought terrorist. But Callie Rose knows the truth—and her fear of the past leaves her afraid for her future. She is also very frightened that Jude McGregor—her uncle—is still alive, and waiting to get his revenge (it is later revealed he actually died in the hotel room with Jasmine). Her best friend, and later boyfriend, Tobey, is worried about his own future. As a nought boy at an exclusive school, Tobey hopes to keep out of trouble, go to university, get a good job and leave the dangerous streets of his childhood behind. But Tobey is discovering that he can't keep clinging to some kind of no-man's land while the neighbourhood around him is carved up by rival gangs, one headed by a ruthless man named Alex McAuley who offers refuge to low-lying noughts, and another headed by the Dowds, a ruthless Cross family. Then he is offered the chance to earn some ready money just making a few "deliveries", introduced by his friend Dan, who works for McAuley. He doesn't want a part of that world, the world of gangs. But maybe he could get away with it, just this once...
One day, when Dan, Tobey and Callie Rose get together, Callie Rose is shot by a hail of bullets from McAuley. The surgery is successful, but Callie ends up in coma. Sephy is furious at Tobey for not becoming more of a man and telling the police who shot Callie Rose, not knowing that Tobey has sworn revenge on McAuley and plans on doing this "himself". While Callie Rose is in hospital Tobey gets a new job at the Restaurant called TFTM (Thanks for the Memories) owned by the Dowd's and meets Rebecca Dowd (Becks), Vanessa Dowd's (head of family) daughter. He starts going out with her, but is torn between Callie Rose and Rebecca. One day, Callie wakes from her coma and is distressed that Tobey is dating Rebecca, and that she has been in coma for so long. During a visit to Vanessa Dowd's house, it is revealed that he has been making deliveries for McAuley. Rebecca is shocked, but Tobey reassures her that he does not work for him any longer. However, he decides to end their relationship, becoming merely "friends". When Rebecca leaves, McAuley appears and stabs her before Tobey can warn her in time. He then instructs Tobey to meet him at his warehouse.
Tobey knows McAuley will kill him, but he has a plan set up with Owen Dowd, Rebecca's brother. He puts a great deal of money in Byron Sweet (one of McAuley's minions) so he can frame him as a traitor. He goes to the warehouse and executes his plan, and it succeeds. However, he is almost killed by two more of McAuley's minions. However, Dan appears from nowhere and kills the two minions outside and McAuley, thus saving Tobey's life. Dan ends up on the run.
During the reading of the will of Jasmine Hadley, he tells Callie that he is responsible for the deaths of five people (Rebecca Dowd, Bryon Sweet, Alex McAuley and two of his guards, Dave and Scott) through his immoral actions, and Dan is facing the rest of his life in prison or on the run. Callie does not mind this, because she knows that he did all of this for her, and her reply to him is that her actions were responsible for the deaths of two people (Jasmine Hadley and Jude McGregor) and does Tobey blame her for that? They eventually resume their relationship. In the epilogue, it is revealed that both Callie and Tobey went to university to study law, and that Tobey set up and partially funded the Meadowview Shelter, to help those with a drug and/or alcohol addiction.
Persephone Mira Hadley: Nicknamed Sephy, is the daughter of a powerful Cross, Kamal Hadley. She was childhood best friends with Callum McGregor despite their different backgrounds, and eventually falls in love with him. After a few years have passed without contact, Callum kidnaps her but they end up sleeping together and have a daughter, Callie Rose, who is raised by Sephy and Meggie after Callum is killed. In Checkmate she starts to have feelings for her bandmate Sonny, and although she starts dating a wealthy Cross, Nathan, Sonny reveals his love for her at the end of the book and in Double Cross they plan to marry.
Callum McGregor: Callum was a nought, and is best friends, and later lovers, with Sephy Hadley. He is the brother of Lynette, who has a mental illness and eventually commits suicide although only he knows it wasn't an accident due to a letter she left him,and Jude, who he constantly clashes with. He managed to get into Sephy's school, proving his intelligence as only a few noughts are admitted, but later left as he couldn't handle the discrimination towards him. After losing contact with Sephy, he works for the Liberation Militia and helps them kidnap her, however he ends up sleeping with her and then letting her go. Callum is the father of Sephy's child, Callie Rose therefore, but is hanged for his involvement in Sephy's kidnap before Callie Rose is born.
Jude McGregor: Callum's older brother, who holds a grudge against Sephy, whom he believes is responsible for his brother's death. He hates all Crosses, but becomes romantically inclined towards a Cross named Cara, whom he had previously planned to just use for her money. Despite his best efforts he starts to have genuine feelings for Cara, but the resultant confusion and conflicting emotions over his hatred of Crosses ultimately prove too much and he follows through with his original plan. He ends up beating her to death and taking all her money. He later attempts to use Callie Rose to get back at Sephy by training her to be a terrorist, but his plan backfires when Jasmine takes the bomb and activates it in his hotel room. Before he is killed in the bomb blast, he finally admits his feelings for Cara to himself, as she is the last thing he sees before he is killed.
Callie Rose Mcgregor: Daughter of Callum McGregor and Persephone Hadley; her father died before she was born. She resents her mother for keeping her father's identity a secret from her whole life, and joins the Liberation Militia, after being manipulated by her uncle, Jude. She intended to blow herself and her grandfather up, but her grandmother manipulated the situation by stealing the bomb and locking her in the cellar with her mother, forcing them to make up, resulting in Callie finally forgiving her mother. She is in a relationship with Tobey, a nought and her childhood friend, mirroring the unlikely relationship between her parents. Both she and Tobey go on to study law at university.
Tobey Durbridge: Callie's childhood friend, who often teases her, getting her into deeper trouble than he anticipated. In Double Cross, he gets involved with a dangerous gang but turns against it after Callie is shot by one of the members, outting her in a coma. He manages to kill their leader (Alex McAuley) and bring the whole gang down in retaliation. Tobey and Callie become a couple in the last book and both go on to study law at university, after Tobey inherits a six-figure sum from Jasmine's will.
Jasmine Hadley: Sephy and Minerva's mother, who became an alcoholic (and towards the end of the series became almost completely sober). Was good friends with Mr and Mrs McGregor, as Meggie used to work for her. In Checkmate, she is diagnosed with cancer and commits suicide by activating a bomb, killing Jude in the process in order to protect Sephy and Callie.
Kamal Hadley: A powerful, avaricious Cross, who will do anything to gain more power and influence. He is the father of Sephy and Minerva, and the grandfather of Callie, although he slams the door in her face when she comes to visit him. He divorces Jasmine after an unhappy marriage, and remarries. Thanks to a letter Jasmine sent to the media, he loses his power in Checkmate.
Minerva "Minnie" Hadley: Sephy's older sister, whom Sephy often calls "Minnie" to annoy her. She and Sephy are not very close, as she is often shown to be quite selfish. She marries an affluent Cross, Zuri, and they have a son, Taj.
Lynette McGregor: Callum's older sister, who had a mental disorder due to an attack she received from a group of noughts for dating a Cross. This attack left a psychological mark on her, as she now thinks that she is a Cross, as opposed to a nought and hardly communicates with her family. She eventually committed suicide by stepping out in front of a bus, although only Callum knew that it was not an accident.
Ryan McGregor: Callum, Jude, and Lynette's father, who was killed while trying to escape from prison following the Dundale bombing.
Meggie McGregor: Callum's mother, who had been Sephy's nurse until Jasmine Hadley fired her. She convinces Sephy to move in with her in Knife Edge, and is very close to Callie. However, due to a threat she made to Sephy when she planned to move out with Callie their relationship broke and hardly ever spoke to each other after that. The threat was that Meggie would contact the Social Services, complaining that Sephy is taking Callie Rose to a drunk, Nana Jasmine. Nonetheless, by the last book, Meggie's husband had been electrocuted escaping from prison, her daughter had committed suicide after going crazy, one son had been publicly hanged and the other blown up in a suicide attempt by her former best friend.
Lucas Cheshie: Callie's ex-boyfriend, a Cross. He features in Checkmate and Double Cross, and has a sister who was a former good friend of Callie and a racist father.
Rebecca Dowd: Daughter of Vanessa Dowd, a rich cross who makes her money from Drugs, Illegal shipments and more. She briefly dates Tobey, however she is killed by Alex McCauley; the Dowd family's arch-enemy. Rebecca is very lonely and loves Tobey because he loves her for who she is, not because of her last name. However, Tobey remained in love with Callie throughout their relationship.
The Dowd Family: The Dowd family are a powerful Cross family, who own half of Meadowview and are rivals of Alex McCauley's gang. They only feature in Double Cross.
Alex McCauley: The main antagonist of Double Cross.
Dan: Tobey's friend, who uses Tobey's desperate financial situation to introduce him to gang life in Double Cross.
Cara Imega: A kind-hearted Cross, who falls in love with Jude. She campaigns against the discrimination towards noughts. Although Jude is only dating her so that he can take her money, he eventually falls in love with her as well, but is so scared of his feelings that he follows through with his original plan; he murders her and takes all her money. Just before Jasmine kills Jude, the only person he thinks of is Cara and the last thing he sees is her, with her hand outstretched.
Sonny: A member of Sephy's band. Starts to go out with Sephy in Knife Edge, but Sephy decides to end their relationship. They both have feelings for each other, however, and plan to marry in 'Double Cross.'
- Amy (ex singer)
- Jack Lubanjah
- Byron Sweet
- Ella Cheshire
- Mrs Paxton
- The Resnick Family
- Grace Hadley
- Sarah Pike
- Jake Lee
Abridged audio books have been made from all of the books in the series, except An Eye For an Eye. As the character narrating the story changes with each chapter, each narrator is played by a different actor. Sephy is played by Nina Sosanya, Callum by Nigel Greaves, Jude by John Hasler, Meggie by Joan Walker, Callie Rose by Nicole Davis, Jasmine by Adjoa Andoh and Tobey by Nigel Pilkington. The additional parts of the story were read by Nina Sosanya in the first book, and by Joan Walker in the second, third and fourth books.
The first book, Noughts & Crosses, now retitled Black & White, was adapted and directed for the Royal Shakespeare Company by former RSC Associate Dominic Cooke, with Richard Madden and Ony Uhiara in the lead roles of Callum and Sephy. The play garnered positive reviews, with Blackman herself saying that she "knew it was in really safe hands". It toured the UK from February to April 2008. Noughts and Crosses, the first book, is allegedly getting the musical treatment that will hit the West End in 2013. The first book was also the subject of the last edition in February 2012 of BBC Radio 4's "Saturday Drama".
Awards and nominations
- 2002, Lancashire Children's Book of the Year.
- 2002, Red House Children's Book Award.
- 2002, Sheffield Children's Book Award.
- 2003, Wirral Paperback of the Year Award.
- 2004, Fantastic Fiction Award.
- 2005, Berkshire Book Award (shortlist).
- 2005, Lancashire Children's Book of the Year (shortlist).
- 2005, Redbridge Teenage book Award (shortlist).
- 2006, Lancashire Children's Book of the Year (shortlist).
- 2006, Staffordshire Young People's Book of the Year.
- "BBC - The Big Read". BBC, April 2003, Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Blackman, Malorie & Dominic Cooke. Noughts and Crosses (Royal Shakespeare Company) Nick Hern Books, London, 2007.
- Malorie Blackman Interview: Double Cross on Scottish Book Trust
- "Malorie Blackman". Contemporary Writers. British Council. 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
- "Awards and Prizes". Kids at Random House. Random House Children's Books. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
- Noughts & Crosses at Malorie Blackman's official website
- Knife Edge at Malorie Blackman's official website
- Checkmate at Malorie Blackman's official website
- Malorie Blackman's plot description of Noughts & Crosses at meettheauthor.com