Review: Double Cross (#4) by Malorie Blackman

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Tobey wants a better life – for him and his girlfriend Callie Rose. He wants nothing to do with the gangs that rule the world he lives in. But when he’s offered the chance to earn some money just for making a few ‘deliveries’, just this once, would it hurt to say ‘yes’?
One small decision can change everything . . .

I have such mixed feelings about this book. I see this book as the last in the series, purely because it was the last for so long, and Crossfire is set so long after the original four.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book so much. It was probably the most fast-paced book in the series and I flew through it quicker than any of the others. Especially the last 100 pages, they were so amazingly full of action that I didn’t want to put the book down.

That was all it took – a shower of rain, the slam of a door, the thrust of a knife or a gunshot – 

But – and it’s a big but – it wasn’t enough. I really enjoyed the plot, the action and adventure. It was a compulsive and compelling read. But it almost left no room for anything else. No room for emotion, connection, family, friendship. I didn’t really feel like I knew Tobey before this book, and I don’t feel like I know him afterward, either. I did feel for them as a couple, and I won’t lie, I did have tears in my eyes at the end of the book.

I just wish I had more time to connect to the characters, to feel more for them so that when the plot climaxed, I would connect to how it affected everybody around Tobey, himself included.

and just like that, a person could be gone with nothing but the memories of others to show that they’d ever existed.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t add enough to the original story for me at all, and the balance of emotional connection and plot was not right. I wanted a par of both of them, and even though the action and plot were exceptional, it didn’t win me over, just made the book very readable!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Checkmate (#3) by Malorie Blackman

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

If Knife Edge left me wanting more, Checkmate gave it to me. I was blown away by this book, and I can’t believe how different I found it from the second. The second really felt like a lull for me, suffering from the classic ‘filler’ feeling second books in series sometimes have. But in Checkmate, the action ramps up, emotions run high, I loved it.

I cannot congratulate Blackman enough for writing an absolute roller coaster of a series. The way Checkmate was structured, non-linear and flitting between Callie as she grows up and Sephy, Callie and family in recent years, is astounding. I wanted to rush through the pages in order to find out what happens, and of course, Blackman leaves you on the edge of your seat until the very final pages.

But remember this if nothing else: I love you more than there are words or stars. I love you more than there are thoughts and feelings.

As well as the plot being amazing, the characters were very well structured, too. In Knife Edge, I struggled with how Jude acted, and I felt Sephy’s feelings and more specifically, depression, were not dealt with very well. All of that goes out of the window in Checkmate, for a more developed and well rounded cast. I finally felt like I was there with them for every step, feeling everything they did. It was everything I wanted from this series, finally in my hands.

The repetitiveness in the writing has also vanished. Instead of feeling like Blackman was struggling to fill a page, I finally felt like every word meant something, every word needed to be there for the story. The only slight downside was the amount of POV’s could be confusing at times and felt like they were flitting around a lot. Despite this, I still really enjoyed it and found it digestible enough to read.

I love you more than there are seconds or moments gone or to come. I love you.

This is a story about race. A story about divide. A story about women, family and friendship and love. I cannot wait to see where the next book takes me, and I only hope it lives up to this one.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Knife Edge (#2) by Malorie Blackman

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Where there has been love, now there is hate.
Two families have been shattered by the divided and violent society they live in.
Sephy Hadley – a Cross, supposedly powerful and privileged – has bound herself forever to her nought lover Callum McGregor’s family.
But Jude McGregor blames Sephy for all the tragedies his family has suffered. And he is determined to force her to take sides, and destroy her life . . . just like she destroyed his. . .

There is absolutely no doubt that these books shake you to the core. They are so powerful, shocking and hard hitting. Some of the scenes left me reeling.

But, and it is a big but. I was bored. It is so hard to balance a book which is important as this series is, with a concept behind it that is so needed and prominent and children’s literature, with the fact that I found the writing…not that great.

The media called us ruthless terrorists. We’re not. We’re just fighting for what’s right.

I remember being gripped by the first book, not wanting to put it down. I remember reading most of it in one sitting. But with this one, the only saving grace was Jude’s storyline. His heartbreaking sections were interesting and thought provoking. I still believe his thoughts and feelings could have been portrayed in a way that made him a little more three-dimensional, but for the most part his storyline was really enjoyable.

But unfortunately, it ended there. I found Sephy difficult to read about. She is obviously struggling, but it is not explained in detail why, with her instead pushing everything and everybody away and acting like a brat. I found the first half of this book much better than the second, which is rare for me. She just seemed much more rounded and well developed, then shutting herself off to the world in the second part, making her very two-dimensional. I understand that this may be the point with her depression, but it fell flat in the writing for me.

I also found a lot of the chapters very repetitive, especially those from the point of view of the mothers or other secondary characters. Meggie would often repeat herself for a whole page and fixate on one small issue, which I found frustrating to read about.

Being born a nought shouldn’t automatically slam shut myriad doors before you’ve even drawn your first breath.

Overall, I am very torn about this book. Blackman is incredibly talented, and it shines through in very small scenes, which show anger, passion and frustration for an oppressed community. I just found it to be in much smaller doses than I expected, which was an incredible disappointment.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Goodreads | Amazon

Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
In this gripping, stimulating and totally absorbing novel, black and white are right and wrong.

Well, that was a rollercoaster.

I know, I’m so late to the party with this one! I’ve seen it around and heard about it all of my life, yet somehow never picked it up myself. I thought at 19 it may be a little young and irrelevant for me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

With Callum being a Nought (seen as a lower member of society) and Sephy being a Cross (more privileged), they defied normal expectations by falling in love. Noughts and Crosses just don’t mix. Of course we’ve seen this trope many times before (Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, hello), but bringing race into the mix made this book turbulent, upsetting and frankly heartbreaking.

‘I used to comfort myself with the belief that it was only certain individuals and their peculiar notions that spoilt things for the rest of us.’

Even though this book is almost 20 years old, I could still see it relating to today’s society. I’m proud to say I think the UK is far past the racial divide we see in Noughts & Crosses, but I was constantly reminded that the actions taken throughout this book have very probably happened to real people. It is so sad and hard hitting to read and ponder.

Noughts & Crosses carries weight. It was the early noughties The Hate U Give, and it crushes my heart into pieces that even when The Hate U Give came out, stories like this still need to be told. But much like with THUG, I’m very glad they are being put out into the world, for us to reconsider how we treat one another.

I found this book very character driven, but I actually really enjoyed it. Callum and Sephy have very upsetting lives for completely different reasons (due to their class divide and differences), and seeing the world and racial struggles from their PsOV really related to me, even being much older than them. Due to feeling so close to them both, I felt so gripped to the story and ended up finishing it in a couple of long sittings. The short chapters and younger language ensured I read over 100 pages at a time, which is unlike me!

‘But how many individuals does it take before it’s not the individuals who are prejudiced but society itself?’

Talking of the language, it’s a tricky one to define. Yes, it’s young, but that I expected and didn’t mind. It’s also over dramatic and includes way too many exclamation marks. Like damn girl, those were overused. Personally, I do believe it was more common in writing around the time, and for that I forgave the language quickly. Only in that way does this book show it’s age, but it would have been more enjoyable with more contemporary writing.

It’s very hard to describe how else Noughts & Crosses let me down. In some ways, I found Callum and Sephy felt a little…forced? In a way, it’s very obvious their romance is a big plot point, and because of that I missed a natural connection between them both. And although the ending was incredibly gripping, it was also a little over the top for me personally.

Even with these small criticisms, this book is still very enjoyable and I can see why it has so much love and attention. It’s definitely worth a read!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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