“Crossfire is searing, political and furious. Malorie’s world building is sublime and the way the Noughts & Crosses series holds a mirror up to society is unrivalled”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Malorie Blackman’s long-awaited Crossfire was published 11 years after the last book in her Noughts and Crosses series, Double Cross. The new book which was announced in September last year is said to be inspired by Brexit, Trump and the rise of the Far Right in Europe.
In the introduction to Crossfire, Malorie Blackman writes, “The results of the UK Brexit referendum and the US presidential election is 2016 brought home to me just how potent the politics of fear and division can be… Crossfire presents the third generation of Noughts and Crosses inhabiting a world I created almost two decades previously. Has life improved for Noughts? Is there more inclusion in society? Less division? I do believe in hope, in two steps forward for every one step back. But sometimes hope is hard to find and harder to hold on to. But hold on to it we must.”
Crossfire picks up with Tobey a Nought, and Callie-Rose (the daughter of Noughts and Crosses original protagonists Callum and Sephy), who many Noughts and Crosses fans will be overjoyed to revisit and learn about what has become of them since the end of Double Cross.
Crossfire also introduces two new protagonists, Libby a Nought and Troy a Cross. These characters are our new generation of Noughts and Crosses growing up in Callum and Sephy’s world, only 18 years later. It is through Libby and Troy that we truly learn how far society, inclusion and race relations really have come, in this fictional world and to some extent our own.
Like the other books in the Noughts and Crosses series, Crossfire is set in a fictional, dystopian world where the societal power structures we know are flipped on their head and we see an alternative history where African (Zafrikan/ Crosses) gained the advantage over Europeans (Fenno-Skandians/ Noughts).
In Crossfire, Malorie Blackman continues to highlight the issues of racism and discrimination that are still rife in present-day including; racism in football, politics, the media, the education system, and other power structures.
Blackman also uses Crossfire to explore the Brexit referendum and the Windrush generation in the UK with a similar thread running through the book.
“Tobey Durbridge, Shadow Home Secretary for the opposition Democratic Alliance party and Prime Ministerial candidate, has spoken out against confirmed residential status, the government ruling that requires all those of Fenno-Skandian heritage who were not born in Britain to apply for confirmed residential status.”
Blackman’s Crossfire also questions how we currently group ethnic minorities and the way they are often described in our society as the ‘black president’ etc. Blackman writes;
“As I am, and always will be a Nought, how the hell can I compare it to being anything else… I really couldn’t remember any Cross political candidate being asked how it felt to be a Cross doing the same job… That was just taken as the default position. It was as if the rest of us who were WAME – white and mixed-ethnic – were aberrations… Crosses were one group and everyone else got lumped into the WAME category like we were all one, big, homogenous mass and not worthy of distinct categorization.”
Crossfire is another brilliantly written book to join the Noughts and Crosses series. Blackman continues to use the structure of darting back and forth from different characters in different time zones all telling their own part of the story in order to build tension and hold readers on mini cliff-hangers throughout the story. Re-joining Callie-Rose and Tobey after all this time made for emotive reading about the characters we’ve already grown so attached to in the previous books. While the new characters, Libby and Troy’s story also made for a compelling and gripping read.
I very much hope that Blackman continues writing the Noughts and Crosses series as they are still just as relevant now as they were nearly two decades ago. Fingers crossed she doesn’t leave us hanging on for another ten years before she publishes another.
The back of my edition of Crossfire also contained a short story entitled, Nought Forever. Published earlier this year for World Book Day, Nought Forever is a novella that tells the story of Nought, Dan Jeavons who many will know from Double Cross.
The short story links in part to a backstory running through Crossfire so makes great accompanying reading if you’re suffering a ‘book hangover’ at the end of Crossfire. While only short, Nought Forever, still packs the powerful punch of the Noughts and Crosses series, exploring extremist group ‘Nought Forever’ or NF, a take on the real-life National Front, a far-right fascist political party in the UK. If your edition of Crossfire doesn’t include Nought Forever then you can purchase it for £1 (or with a national book token if you still have one to spend!)
Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog
Added 30th January 2020