by Malorie Blackman (Author)
The fourth book in the award winning Noughts and Crosses series, this book follows the fortunes of teenage sweethearts Tobey and Callie Rose.
Callie, a mixed-race girl, is haunted by guilt over her involvement in the bombing at the end of the last book which killed her grandmother and evil Uncle Jude. To her horror she soon learns that her uncle may not be dead. Tobey, a Nought, has a bright future ahead of him. Lack of money, however, draws him into making a mistake. He agrees to do a delivery for a local gangster and his involvement in gang warfare, violence, revenge and potential murder spirals forward and downward. When Callie is shot, trying to protect him, Tobey begins a lone campaign to wreak revenge on both gangs. The only way to fight these criminals is with their own tactics. In doing so, he comes close to becoming one of them.
As a single read, the Callie story in this book is a little unsatisfactory. The reader feels a little in the dark about Callie’s motivations for getting involved in terrorism in the first place. The mechanism of her being in a long coma after the shooting also creaks a little of convenience as it releases Tobey from her moral strictures in the revenge section of the plot. Tobey’s story, on the other hand, is complete and harrowing. Perhaps this is because the majority of the story involves him and is seen through his eyes. The danger of being sucked into and destroyed by this violent world is brilliantly handled by Blackman. We could easily lose empathy with the new violent Tobey but we don’t. His misgivings, his regret and his self-loathing at the end redeem him.
This is an honest depiction of the dangers of a drug-filled, gang-controlled, prejudiced world where money and power are the everyday motivations for violent crime. The language the characters use is gritty and witty; much of the story happens through dialogue. The sex scene depicting the loss of virginity is sensitively and honestly written.
Blackman hangs an old story on a modern frame with terrific resonance.