Naughts and Crosses

Naughts and Crosses

4.8 44
by Malorie Blackman

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Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don't mix — and they certainly don't fall in love. But that's exactly what they've done.
When they were younger, they played together. Now


Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don't mix — and they certainly don't fall in love. But that's exactly what they've done.
When they were younger, they played together. Now Callum and Sephy meet in secret and make excuses. But excuses no longer cut it when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing planned by the Liberation Militia, with which Callum's family is linked. Callum's father is the prime suspect...and Sephy's father will stop at nothing to see him hanged. The blood hunt that ensues will threaten not only Callum and Sephy's love for each other, but their very lives.
In this shocking thriller, UK sensation Malorie Blackman turns the world inside out. What's white is black, what's black is white, and only one thing is clear: Assumptions can be deadly.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What if Romeo and Juliet had different shades of skin? Sephy (short for Persephone), nearly 14 at the start of the novel, is dark-skinned, a member of the ruling "Crosses," and the wealthy daughter of a powerful politician. Her best friend is 15-year-old Callum, a pale-skinned "naught" whose mother had been Sephy's nursemaid. The two continue to meet on the sly after Callum's mother is fired. When a new law allows "the cr me de la cr me of naught youth" to attend Cross high schools, Sephy believes she and Callum can be friends in public. Callum hopes a good education will help him rise out of poverty. Instead, the introduction of naughts into Cross classrooms leads to taunting, fist fights and expulsions. British author Blackman's plot, told in Sephy and Callum's alternating voices, is an amalgam of 20th-century race relations. The setting resembles England, but the author mixes in issues similar to American history (such as a school integration scenario reminiscent of Little Rock in 1957). The naughts' protest organization (the Liberation Militia), however, more closely resembles the Irish Republican Army than members of the nonviolent U.S. Civil Rights movement. Indeed, an IRA-like bombing at a shopping center (linked to Callum's family) propels the second half of the story. Unfortunately, the first half unspools leisurely, but those who stick with this novel will get a tragic tale of star-crossed lovers and plenty to ponder. Ages 14-up. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Callum and Sephy grew up together, though they had vastly different lives. Callum is a Naught, the disenfranchised white minority, while Sephy is the privileged class of Crosses, those of African American descent. The two classes are forbidden to mix, but expectedly Callum and Sephy fall for each other in this complicated tale of racism and romance. Flipping the sides of racism make for an interesting set of possibilities, and the parallels to modern racism and its ever-present power make this a great book for discussions with teenagers. With all of the complicated racial overtones, the love story between Callum and Sephy reminded me in many of ways of Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper, though Blackman's novel is more appropriate for an older audience. This disturbing and powerful story reminds readers how hard growing up can be. 2005, Simon and Schuster, 386 pp., Ages young adult.
—Jennie Dutton
Children's Literature
When an author sets out to teach the reader a lesson or deliver a message, the story often suffers, and such is the case with this novel. The game of tic-tac-toe is known as "Naughts and Crosses" in the author's homeland, so savvy teenage readers will work out that a "naught" is an O and a "cross" is an X. But will American readers figure this out? If not, they will miss the premise of the story: the ruling class are Crosses, who are black, and the Naughts are white, former slaves who are denied the same treatment as Crosses. And so we have a twist on race relations. Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Naught and because they played together as children they are bound and determined to buck the system. Only they don't. Their tumultuous relationship goes on and on and on and even teenage readers are likely to find them tedious. Callum ends up dropping out of school and joining a terrorist group to avenge his father's death. Not a very hopeful message for those readers still following the racial plotline. And things get even worse for Callum. It's very hard to have any sympathy for these characters—except for the fact that it must be very tiring to hold up such a loaded theme wrapped in such a flimsy story, especially when you're two-dimensional. 2005, Simon & Schuster, Ages 14 to 18.
—Mary Loftus
Sephy and Callum's secret friendship is forbidden in their segregated English society, where white naughts like Callum have been liberated from enslavement to black Cross masters for just fifty years. Their families lead parallel, thoroughly separate lives: Sephy's father, Kamal, ranks high in the corrupt Cross government, while Callum's father, Ryan, and brother, Jude, join the Liberation Militia (LM), a radical underground naught organization that combines Black Panther philosophy with IRA tactics. Despite facing casual and institutional racism, the teens love each other, but their budding romance ends abruptly when an LM bomb planted by Jude nearly kills Sephy. After Ryan is accused, convicted, and dies in prison, Callum is expelled from exclusive Heathcroft Academy and joins the LM, while Sephy throws herself into naught liberation activities at a Cross boarding school. Callum is forced to prove his loyalty to the LM by kidnapping Sephy, only to discover his true depth of feelings for her. From here, the plot hurtles towards its inevitable, tragic end. For a thriller, this book's pacing is sluggish at first. The he-said/she-said narration provides both sides of the race and gender divides, but it also hampers character and plot development in the early chapters. Like To Kill a Mockingbird (HarperCollins, 1959), this worthwhile book explores the theme of a ruling class's horror at interracial sexuality-Callum and Sephy finally admit their mutual feelings and make love-and is a scathing indictment of a corrupt, racist criminal justice system. Readers who stick with it will find ample food for thought and action. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal withpushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Simon & Schuster, 386p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Sophie Brookover
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-Excited by the idea that her best friend, Callum McGregor, will be going to her school, 13-year-old Persephone Hadley, daughter of a racist politician, is too young and too privileged to realize that friendships between naughts, like Callum, the son of her mother's former maid, and Crosses, like herself, are impossible in her segregated society. In this alternate world, recognizably English but with a twist, conditions for the pale-skinned naughts have improved little since the days of slavery; the dark-skinned Crosses have the money and power. Caught up in the hostility surrounding the school's integration, Sephy attempts to be a public friend and makes things worse. Readers familiar with racial issues in this country will see familiar patterns as Callum struggles with the hostility of his family as well as those outside. But in this world, the second-class citizens have turned to terrorism. Callum's older brother, denied schooling, has joined the Liberation Army. Caught up in escalating violence, Callum's family disintegrates, and there seems little for him to do but go the terrorist route as well. Over the years, Callum and Sephy drift apart, but their love remains. The teens take turns telling their story, and the parallels with Romeo and Juliet are clear. Some awkwardness in writing does not detract from the drama and suspense. The obvious message and wooden characterization will not diminish some teens' enthusiasm for this story of impossible love, which won several favorite-book awards in England where it was first published in 2001.-Kathleen Isaacs, formerly at Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What if people were judged by the color of their skin? Sephy and Callum have been in love all their lives, but theirs is a forbidden romance. Sephy is a Cross: Black-skinned, wealthy and daughter of an important politician. White-skinned Callum is a naught, devastatingly poor and powerless. The law now allows naughts to enter Cross schools, and Sephy is thrilled that Callum will attend her school. But the seemingly positive desegregation degenerates into a nightmarish tangle of events ranging from expulsions, to bombings by the naught Liberation Militia, to hangings. Sephy and Callum can only make a hope for the future out of the ruins of their own lives. The teens' romance against overwhelming odds is straightforward and moving. The ideological message, on the other hand, would be more powerful if it focused more on the subtle ingrained racisms of modern society ("They don't sell pink Band-Aids. Only dark brown ones.") and less on a formalized apartheid that will be both alien and ancient history to most young readers. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.30(d)
630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Forty Eight

Lunch was over, without too much grief — for once. Jude had come home from heaven only knew where so we'd all eaten together — which made a change. Mum indulged in small talk, telling us all about what our neighbors and relatives and friends were up to, while Jude was his usual effervescent, scintillating self and didn't say one word. No one was particularly bothered that I didn't have much to say either. Before I'd swallowed my last mouthful, my knife and fork clattered onto my plate and I jumped up. Grabbing my jacket off the back of the sofa, I headed for the door.

"Where're you going?" Mum asked with a smile.

"The shopping center."

Jude leapt up like a scalded cat. "Oh, no you're not."

I frowned at him. "I'll go where I ruddy like. Since when is it any of your business where I go?"

"Callum, you don't want to go there. Not today," Jude said, nervously.

"Jude?" Mum stood up slowly.

A tense, watchful atmosphere entered the room like chilling fog.

"Why shouldn't I go?" I asked my brother.

He didn't answer.

"What's going on?" I persisted.

I turned to Mum. She was staring at Jude, a stunned look on her face. From her expression, she was obviously well ahead of me.

"Don't go there, Callum," Jude told me, pointedly.

"But..." And only then did it click.

The Liberation Militia were planning something at the Dundale. Something Jude knew about. Something my brother didn't want me anywhere near. And then I remembered.

"Sephy's at the shopping center," I said, horror-stricken.

"Callum...," Jude began.

I didn't wait to hear any more. I ran out of the house, leaving the front door wide open as I raced for the shopping center.

Copyright © 2001 by Oneta Malorie Blackman

Chapter Forty Nine: Sephy

Mother was driving me nuts! In our five long, long hours together, I'd bitten my tongue so many times it'd swollen up to the size of a football and was choking me. If she asked me for my opinion on one more pair of shoes, I couldn't be held responsible for my actions. I sipped my orange juice, grateful for the short but welcome break away from her. She'd gone back to the car park to pack away her various purchases. She was enjoying herself. I'm glad one of us was!

"Sephy! Thank God! You have to get out of here."

"Callum!" I beamed. "Where did you spring from?"

"Never mind that. You've got to leave this place now."

"But I haven't finished my drink..."

"Never mind your ruddy drink. You have to leave — now!"

I looked at Callum then, really looked at him. He was scared. No...he was terrified.

"What's going on?"

"Don't argue. Out!" Callum told me grimly. "Come on."

Callum dragged me out of my seat and toward the café door.

"Excuse me, love, but is this boy troubling you?" a stranger asked as I was dragged past his table.

"No! No, he's a friend of mine," I called back. "He wants to show me something..."

Callum dragged me out of the café and along the concourse and then every alarm in the world went off, at least that's what it sounded like.

"What's going on?" I asked, looking around.

"Move it. Come on."

And we were running toward the nearest exit. Others around us were looking around and frowning, wondering what was going on. Maybe they saw Callum and me racing for the nearest exit, maybe we started it. I don't know. But it seemed like moments later, everyone was shouting and racing for the exits. We were among the first ones out of the Dundale. We stumbled out into the spring sunshine and still Callum had hold of my hand and was pulling me after him.

"Where're we going?" I asked breathlessly.

"Run. Come on," Callum puffed from beside me. "I thought I'd never find you. It took me almost half an hour to find you. Move."

"Callum, I'm getting a stitch," I protested.

"Tough. We've got to keep going."

"Callum, enough!" I pulled my hand out of his. "You're — "

Then there was a flash like the very air was alight, followed a fraction of a second later by the most colossal boom. I was blown off my feet and into the air like a dry leaf in a high wind. And even from where we were, I could feel an intense heat on my back. I landed flat on my face, my arms outstretched. There was a strange ringing sound in my ears and it wouldn't stop. For I don't know how long, I lay in a daze. Was I dead? Was this what it felt like to die? I closed my eyes tight and covered my ears, trying to block out the incessant ringing sound — only it was inside my head, not outside. I swallowed hard and my ears popped, and the ringing stopped. Twisting around, I turned to see what on earth had happened. Billowing smoke shot out of the shopping center. For a moment it was eerily quiet, like the end of the world. I wondered, panic-stricken, if the explosion had deafened me. And then I heard screaming and sirens and all hell was let loose.

I turned to Callum, who lay stunned beside me.

"Are you okay? You're not hurt?" Callum asked anxiously, running his hands up and down my back and arms.

"Y-you knew that was going to happen...," I realized, aghast. "You didn't...Tell me you didn't..." I shook my head. No, that was preposterous. Callum had nothing to do with whatever that explosion was. It must've been a bomb. But Callum didn't do that. He wouldn't. He couldn't.

But he knew.

"Mother! Oh my God!" I jumped to my feet and raced toward the car park across the street from the shopping center.

I was almost across the street when I remembered Callum. I turned around.

But he was gone.

Copyright © 2001 by Oneta Malorie Blackman

Meet the Author

Malorie Blackman pursued computer science before becoming a full-time writer. She gained phenomenal success with her first book, Hacker, which won two major UK children's awards, and has gone on to write a number of other award-winning children's books. An avid reader, musician, cineaste, and Net surfer in her spare time, Malorie lives in South London with her husband and their daughter, Elizabeth.

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Naughts and Crosses 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
candace luster More than 1 year ago
i read this book years ago and fell in love with it instantly it really makes u wonder what life would be like if our races switched different sterotypes it opened my eyes to love myself and everyone around me it was sad but yrt beautifully tragic i wish this book could be read in schools to teach kids not judge anyone for their race religion etc. great read
Deby_Fray More than 1 year ago
I have to start by being honest, it took me a lot to recover myself from this particular book, was such a tremendous emotional drain like you couldn´t imagine. For my was the most incredible experience i have lived with a book in a long time, cuz i usually read these fantasy books (that actually affect me a lot but...)where i can distinguish clearly it´s fiction and that´s all, but in this case, with this book, for God sakes i felt completely involved, i could feel their pain, i could touch their injuries i wanna to make them feel better... i don´t know exactly how can i describe how much empathy i took about the two main characters, but i can asure you this, i would and i will recommended "Naughts and Crosses" to everyone, everyone i could....Love it for good, would keep it in my mind for ever and more, promise you that much...i swear that you wíll not get dissapointe, but you know you can always complain to me...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Look around, there is a reason all these reviewers ranked it so well and wrote awesome things about it. Malorie Blackman pulls you into an interesting plotline with carefully threaded events and characters that make you love this book. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry, but most of all it makes you think, and you will never forget it!:)
avidrdrAZ More than 1 year ago
This is an awesome book. It's very easy to read but covers a deep issue. It takes a pretty strong writer/storyteller to get me emotionally involved in a fictional story and Malorie Blackman does an excellent job of getting you in with her characters. The ending made me cry and it's the only book that has done so. Definitely worth reading at least once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Callum and sephy have sex a sephy gets pregnant and callum died because of sephys dad and callum kidnaps sephy and at one part callum and sephy sneek to eachothers houses and atart to cuddle an make out and sephy becomes an alcoholic for a little bit and callums dad died because he was accuse of something he didnt do and callums sister comitted suiside and callum becomes oart of the liberatin militia and kills a bunch of crosses( black people ) woth his brother jude and sephy almist dies about 20 times and callum is always ther to save her and sephy and calkums daughters name is callie rose and sephys sister gets shot in the arm by calkums brother ( in the next book) sephy and callum hate eachother on about 50% of the book and whenever thay do like eachother they are making out. If you read this i jut gave away every important patt of the book ( and a little of the next one ) in one long sentence. Thankyou for reading my review. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thinnk kore peiple should read this because its ture things in this book used to be ture like how black and whites didnt get treated the same. It made me see thungs diffrent and u cant say that abiut a lot of things fir what ive been through.
lifesizedbibliophil More than 1 year ago
Tragic yet amazing! I read this book at least 5 years ago and i have never gotten it out of my head...that is how powerfull it is..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This would have been a five star except the second book isn't available in nook and there were so many typos in this one it was sad. I hate to be grammar police but they were bad, in once case a 7 was used in place of a letter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i first started reading this, i thought it was going to be boring, but i was wrong! I wish Sephy had chosen Callum at the end. I cried over the ending. Sephys dad is EVIL!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Racism. It's something in this world that people are brainwashed by others and sometimes themselves that it doesn't exist, it's an ancient evil, it is dead and gone, it'll never return. But it seems that everything is categorized into two categories: black and white, and it doesn't make sense that racism should be blurred over when it is such a huge part o the human past. Malorie Blackman's 'Naughts and Crosses' is a book that revisits the age-old and never dying issue of racism- is it learned? Is it birthed? Can it be over come? The answer to this last question is yes- as shown in the example of Callum, a young white boy, or 'nought', and Sephy, a black girl, or 'cross'. They have chemistry, they have love, and they have more obstacles to defeat more than any in their path. If they can defeat them, they can be together forever, but if not simple 'hatred' from their respective cultures is not the only consequence they'll have to worry about...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Ghost662 More than 1 year ago
This trilogy is in my top 5! I love it!
leah23 More than 1 year ago
This book was really good but in the end i was crying and i dont cry that often. Although the book is good i am mad that it has to be so sad, i mean who wants to read a book that makes to upset afterwards. I like to read books that make me feel good not bad. So with that said if you dont like sad books then dont read this one! But if for some strange reason to like to feel awful then have fun!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i had just decided to get this book out of the library as to just read something and i dint think it would be all that good. At first I had not realized wat the book was really about just that it had to do with to societies and their differences. as i started to read the book i came to realize that i could not put it down, and so started my journey into this book. I am relieved to know now that the story keeps on going and i cant wait for the next parts.
Mel83 More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating from the beginning to the end. Very well portrayed and very real in almost every sense of the word.
Though it would seem the racism involved would be offensive, I didn't find it to be that way at all! There were equal character traits that could be loved and hated from both sides, and the descriptions of how the naughts and crosses felt just seemed to be very believable.
I loved the development of the relationship with the two main characters and how the story didn't simply focus on them alone, but everyone around them as well. Their relationship was so dead on, nothing out of fairy tales or romance novels, but very realistic, and genuine.
By the end of this book, I was in tears, and I found myself thinking about it long after I sat it down. I feel like everyone should read this. It will undoubtedly leave you thinking.
Malorie Blackman has a gift for bringing out raw emotions, and I can't help but think she must be a very genuine, lovely person for writing such a beautiful story, albeit heart wrenching at times. I look forward to reading more of her work.
And now I'm off to go re-read my favorite parts...
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In NAUGHTS & CROSSES, the author creates a very believable alternate world that is almost like our own--but the main difference is a major one. Everything you think you know about race relations and prejudice holds true, but is switched. The ruling class to which Sephy Hadley's family belongs are the black Crosses, named for their supposed closeness to God. The other, the white Naughts, like Callum and his family, are second-class citizens. In this world, it's unacceptable for a Naught and a Cross to be real friends, and unthinkable for them to fall in love. Callum and Sephy are breaking all the rules of the society they live in.

The two have known each other from a very young age, when Callum's mother worked in the Hadley household. Even after she loses her job, though, Sephy and Callum remain secretly close. They meet in secrecy, forced to tell lies and make up excuses, but they never stop seeing each other, no matter how difficult it is. Soon, though, they'll see each other every day--but that's not as good as it sounds. A new law has been passed, and a limited number of Naughts will now be allowed to attend Cross schools. Callum has been accepted into Sephy's school, and Sephy's excited to see her best friend more often. Callum, however, knows that letting their friendship be public could prove very dangerous for both of them. Things continue to get worse when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing. Sephy's life is saved when Callum pulls her out of the building just in time, but nobody's fooled--that's no coincidence. Suspicion falls on Callum's family.

Callum's father is the prime suspect in planting the bomb, supposedly on the orders of a radical Naught terrorist group, the Liberation Militia, or L.M. They're devoted to their goals of rights for Naughts, and they'll go to any length to achieve them. This world even has a parallel to Martin Luther King, Jr.; Alex Luther is an activist whose goal is to achieve equality peacefully. Callum's mother is a supporter of his, but Callum's father and brother don't believe that Alex Luther's way of doing things will actually get anything done. The events that unfold after the bombing threaten not only Sephy and Callum's relationship, but their very lives and the lives of those around them.

NAUGHTS & CROSSES is a fantastic story, and one that will keep your mind occupied long past the final pages. The world created in Malorie Blackman's novel is one that is much like our own, and inspires a lot of "what if?" questions. What if that was our world? It's not so far off to imagine. How would our lives be different? They almost certainly would be. You wouldn't be where you are now. You wouldn't be who you are now; everything would be remarkably different, but still so much the same....

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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a story of two friends, Callum and Sephy, who are from two different worlds of two different skin colors, whose innocent friendship turns into a forbidden love. This twist of a story is set in a world where people are discriminated for being....White. It is an eye opening reminder of the pety differences that seperate us from each other and how much those differences really matter when stood up against by LOVE. This story will keep you captivated, shocked, teary eyed, and on the edge at every page turn. This is a 'must read.' Warning: May cause controversy.