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Literature / Noughts & Crosses

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Noughts & Crosses series is set in a world where the people with dark skin (Crosses) are dominant over the white people (noughts), written by Malorie Blackman. The title is a reference to the game Noughts and Crosses (tic-tac-toe).

A TV adaptation of the first book began airing on BBC One in the UK during March 2020.

This series consists of:

  • Noughts & Crosses
  • An Eye For an Eye
  • Knife Edge
  • Checkmate
  • Double Cross
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  • Crossfire

This series provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Jasmine Hadley. Sephy for a while but she works through it.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Bliss, one of Callie Rose's classmates, to the point of speaking in a valley girl manner.
    • Averted with Cara Imega, who cares for Jude regardless of race until she is killed off by Jude.
  • Alternate History: The reason why there is so much prejudice against noughts is because they were enslaved by people from Africa, rather than the other way round.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Lynette. She seems to have some kind of PTSD and psychosis.
  • Anyone Can Die: Lynette, Ryan and Callum himself in the first book. Jasmine and Jude in Checkmate.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Checkmate. Jasmine kills Jude, preventing him from harming Sephy or Callie anymore but dies as a result and Meggie loses her last child. Sephy and Callie reconcile and realize Callum loved both of them all along, but will never really get over his death.
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  • Bigot with a Crush: In Knife Edge, Jude falls in love with the rich Cross Cara, which does not end well, with Jude attempting to reconcile his feelings by beating her to death after stealing her money.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Sephy and Callum, but due to the alternate universe Persecution Flip, he's viewed as her inferior rather than vice versa, making it more of a case of Where da White Women At?.
    • Likewise with Jude and Cara.
  • Break the Cutie: The whole book is basically this for Callum and Sephy, who start off as relatively optimistic and hopeful about their futures (Sephy moreso than Callum) and become much more cynical and broken. Lynette and Jude also go through this before the book even starts.
    • Callie Rose goes through this after she is told what happened to her father.
  • But Not Too White: Which is the in-universe equivalent of But Not Too Black.
  • Children Are Innocent:
    • Played completely straight in young Callum, Sephy, Callie.
    • Averted by the younger peers in Callie's school.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Sephy and Callum. As they grow up their romantic feelings are completely, 100% reciprocated but outside forces tear them apart averting them becoming 'victorious' childhood friends.
    • Played straight with Tobey and Callie Rose.
  • Crapsack World: If you're a nought. Also, Britain is a rare example of dystopia/Crapsack World in that society functions well.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Kelani Adams who defends Callum's dad in his murder trial. Sephy plans to become one before she gets pregnant.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Sephy names Callie Rose after her father (although she decided that before Callum was sentenced to death). If Callie had been a boy, she stated that she would have called him Ryan after Callum's deceased father.
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  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: And how. Much of the attitude against noughts mirrors prejudice against black people during segregation in America, apartheid in South Africa and to a lesser extent attitudes towards black people in Britain until the 1960's. The Liberation Milita are realistic Well-Intentioned Extremist, with echoes of the IRA in cell structure, modus operandi and treatment by the media, and of MK and PAC anti apartheid guerrillas in South Africa. Kamal Hadley's political policy of "sending white people back where they came from," resembles some peoples ideas about immigration in (modern) Britain. There is even a reference to a KKK-esque band of Crosses who tied a nought to the back of a car and dragged him till he died for being in a Cross only area.
  • Domestic Abuse: Kamal, both physically and emotionally towards Jasmine.
  • Downer Ending: Depends on which book you read. Noughts and Crosses and Knife Edge have these, but it's averted overall because And the Adventure Continues.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jasmine from the start, then Sephy as a teenager.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Tobey to Callie Rose.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Toby's struggle throughout his entire A Day in the Limelight book is for this cause. The entire series is this because it is the final book
  • Empty Shell: Jude eventually becomes this, somewhat because he wants to stop feeling anything. He reflects that he can't even feel happy that he's got to that point.
  • Ethnic Menial Labour: Meggie is a housemaid, Sarah is a cleaner, Tobey works in a shop for a while, Callum in a garage...
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Utterly subverted with Jude, who attacked a pregnant Sephy and planned to kill her, only sparing her when he realised she wanted to die... then decided it would hurt her more if he let her live then turned Callum's daughter against her mother.
  • Family Theme Naming: The Hadleys named both their daughters after goddesses - Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom) and Persephone (the Greek goddess of springtime and maidenhood). May also cement their positions of Minerva being the responsible, logical one, and Sephy being the idealistic, somewhat naive one.
  • Fantastic Racism
  • Fantastic Slur: Nought, Cross (although those are politically correct, "nought," means to be nothing, not worthwhile,) Blanker, Dagger, Halfer. The list goes on.
  • First Love: Callum and Sephy for each other.
  • Forbidden Friendship: Sephy and Callum start as this and upgrade to Star-Crossed Lovers during the course of the book.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Sephy attempts to invoke this, dating Sonny and eventually agreeing to marry Nathan years after the events of the first book. However Callie doubts than she ever really got over Callum.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Callum allows himself to be hanged in exchange for Sephy keeping their child.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Kamal starts here, and continues as he means to go on.
  • Lady Drunk: Jasmine Hadley.
  • La Résistance: The Liberation Militia.
  • Mama Bear: Meggie McGregor and Jasmine Hadley.
  • Meaningful Name: Persephone (Sephy) Hadley.
    • Callum's name (meaning Dove of Peace) is a particularly tragic example, as he starts out believing in fighting for racial equality through peaceful, non-violent means, but has the hope slowly beaten out of him.
  • Meaningful Rename: Sephy drops the "Callie" from Callie Rose's name, and starts calling her "Rose".
    • Reverted, when Callie Rose joins the LM and starts going by just "Callie".
  • The Mole: Kamal has one inside the Liberation Militia, which leads to the destruction of Jude and Callum's cell. Making things worse for Jude and Callum, the mole outranks them, meaning they can't expose him without risking their own lives.
  • Morning Sickness: Minerva correctly assumes Sephy is pregnant after hearing her being sick in the mornings. This a bit of a shock to Sephy who was in denial about her pregnancy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Callum and Sephy having sex that night sent both their lives down the crapper, something Jude did pointed out at the time.
  • The Ophelia: Lynette, in a creepy, realistic way. "But I'm a Cross. Look at my skin, so dark and rich..." She does recover, eventually, but can't take the real world after a while.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: All three of Maggie McGregor's children die before her: Lynette by suicide, Callum by execution, and Jude by assassination in a murder-suicide attack.
  • Papa Wolf: Ryan McGregor to his children.
  • President Evil: Kamal Hadley was planning on being Prime Minster, but he doesn't succeed.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Noughts and Crosses. Callum is hanged with Sephy screaming her love for him as he dies and no one else believes he's innocent of rape.However the last page of the book bears the announcement of the birth of their daughter and Sephy's declaration she'll take Callum's surname.
  • Rebellious Princess: Sephy is a modern version as the daughter of a politician.
  • Save the Villain: Sephy to Jude, so she can help his mother, Meggie.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Eventually, Callum gets fed up with the unfair treatment he gets at school, and just walks out before he can be expelled.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Snobbish, bitchy Minnie and idealistic, open-minded Sephy.
  • Sleazy Politician : Kamal
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Sephy names their daughter Callie-Rose after Callum and the rose garden where they last saw each other.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Sephy and Callum.
  • Switching P.O.V.:
    • Noughts and Crosses switches between Callum and Sephy in first person
    • Knife Edge switches between Sephy and Jude.
    • Checkmate features Sephy, Callie Rose, Jude, Meggie, and Jasmine all as POV characters.
    • Double Cross switches between Callie Rose and Tobey.
  • Token White: It is mentioned by Meggie that in all T.V shows there will only be ONE nought if any.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Basically the entire first book for Callum: His sister is borderline insane, his older brother picks on him and his parents disapprove of him continuing his education at a previously Cross only secondary school. At said-school he's constantly bullied by students and teachers for his race. Then his sister is killed in an accident, and he discovers it was actually suicide but can't bring himself to tell anyone, his dad is arrested for murder, almost executed and then killed trying to escape. And of course he has to keep his friendship with Sephy a secret, then falls in love with her while knowing they can never be together and he misses his one chance to run away with her. They eventually have one night together and conceive a child...which results in him being put to death and not even being allowed to see her again before he dies.
    • Thanks to the above events, Callum's family suffer this as well.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Invoked In-universe.
  • Uptown Girl: Sephy, the daughter of a wealthy politician to Callum whose mother used to work for her parents. It's just one of the many obstacles they face.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Jasmine and Meggie, before Jasmine fired her (wrecking her family's life in the process) for accidentally not providing an alibi about a night out.
  • Where da White Women At?: Lynette and her mentioned boyfriend, Jed. They are almost killed because of it, sending her over the edge.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sephy, at least during the first book. Callum is this in comparison to the rest of his family but gets steadily more cynical.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Jude, starts of a sweet but troubled kid who eventually slides down the slope into being a ruthless and destructive leader of the Liberation Militia.


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