Ten years on from Double Cross, Malorie Blackman makes an eagerly awaited return to the world of Noughts & Crosses. The series, widely acknowledged to be a modern YA classic, was originally conceived as a trilogy but this fifth book is, Blackman says, written in response to our turbulent times. Echoes of Brexit, the rise of the far right, political corruption and press bias ring through the pages: this is a book about politics and how it affects all of our lives.
The book opens 34 years after Sephy Hadley first met Callum McGregor in Noughts & Crosses, but old wounds prove hard to heal and the fallout of their relationship is still felt down the years. Sephy's daughter, Callie-Rose, and her friend Tobey, now an ambitious politician, are the focus here, along with a third generation of protagonists: Sephy's son Troy and his Nought classmate Libby. In the opening pages, a murder charge and a kidnapping set up a cleverly layered plot, told through a series of flashbacks.
Both exhilarating thriller and astute social commentary, Blackman is as relevant, thought-provoking and timely as ever. A TV tie-in edition of Noughts & Crosses is also published in August ahead of the BBC's forthcoming adaptation.
Crossfire is the fifth in the series, and ingeniously flips the race issue: the dark-skinned Crosses have all the advantages in society, while the white-skinned Noughts face constant discrimination. It’s a brilliant inversion, with myriad tiny details that constantly illuminate the grinding effect of blind prejudice... The inevitable back-references to previous plots and characters, while kept to a minimum, mean that Crossfire is one for the existing fan base; aimed at a wide readership, the writing is efficient and streamlined rather than complex or adventurous.
Blackman is great at explosive love-hate relationships, the kind that make characters get the wrong end of the stick and say things they will regret later. A highlight in Crossfire is a no-holds-barred scene in which Troy and Libby come head to head during school elections. Sparks fly, too, in the realm of grownup politics, spin and fake news... Blackman also has a talent for producing relatable characters, gutsy dialogue and page-turning action. Crossfire is a cracking story that fans of the series will love. And if, like me, they are surprised by the abrupt nature of the cliffhanger ending, at least they’ll know there’s another volume to come.
This fifth book written 10 years on, illuminates our current political climate of fear and division. It follows known characters, including Callie Rose, now a high-powered lawyer, who is to defend a murder charge against her ruthless former boyfriend Tobey, on track to be the nation’s first Nought prime minister. Interweaving past and present, it introduces Callie’s half-brother, and the girl who is his rival, who are kidnapped together. This tense tale is about love, friendship, sex, power and corruption. Rich in moral and social issues, it is devastating about racial attitudes and tantalisingly inconclusive.