This month we’re reading the fourth book in the Noughts & Crosses series, Double Cross.
Perfect for classrooms, libraries and book clubs, these notes will get you talking.
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 . . .
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT
1. EQUALITY BETWEEN NOUGHTS AND CROSSES
Double Cross is set in a time where the apartheid of Noughts & Crosses is beginning to be consigned to history. The Equal Rights Bill is
wending its way through government, and it is clear that Tobey is among a number of Noughts who now have the opportunity to go to
Heathcroft High, a good school, and to aim for university in their future. Yet how much has actually changed for many members of society?
– Dan tells Tobey, ‘You’re a Nought, Tobey. And going to your fancy school isn’t going to change that.’ (pages 30-31). Tobey is angered by this
defeatism; but is he right when he say that Noughts ‘don’t need Crosses to keep us down with that kind of thinking. We’ll do it to ourselves’?
– Compare the ambitions of both Tobey and Dan. How different are their expectations? And what does Dan mean (page 409) when he says
he is in his ‘proper place’?
– Are Tobey’s ambitions realistic? In chapter six, there is a discussion between himself, his mother and sister, about their futures – and
possible problems ahead. How are Tobey’s choices influenced by his being born a Nought in a society where this automatically excluded
him from many opportunities as he grew up?
– Can education be seen as a way out of poverty? Is this a valid option for those in Tobey’s world who begin with disadvantages? What about
in our own society?
– Are there other areas in society shown within the book where the old Noughts/Crosses divide still exists? eg: employment opportunities.
2. THE GANGS
Meadowview is described as being an area where the streets are ruled very much by two different gangs-Alex McAuley, and the
Dowds. And as Dan points out to Tobey, there is no such thing as no-man’s-land for those who live there.
– How valid is Dan’s belief that everyone needs backup to get through the present?
– Dan believes that ‘protection’ is necessary for survival. How dangerous is this view? How does it escalate problems and how could
beliefs like this be changed?
– What is ‘slipping’ (page 58)? Is this a problem for young people in our own society?
3. ‘IT’S EASY MONEY’
– Is there any such thing?
– Discuss how tempting Dan’s offer is to Tobey; why does Tobey agree to make the first deliveries when he knows that he will
be getting involved in something illegal? What are the pros and cons for his getting involved?
– How easy would it be for Tobey to say ‘no’ to McAuley after he agrees to work for him? Is it ever possible to walk away once
one is involved in any gang activity?
– If the shooting hadn’t happened, do you think Tobey would have continued to work for McAuley after the first deliveries? If so,
how different do you think he would have become as a person? Would he and Callie Rose still have been together as a
4. AFTER THE DELIVERIES…
– How does Tobey feel when he discovers what he has actually delivered?
– ‘If the police come knocking, I’m not going down alone.’ Why does Tobey say this to Dan (page 120)? Do you
think he meant it? Does Dan believe him?
– Do you think this threat leads to the incident in the Wasteland?
5. AFTER THE SHOOTING
– When Callie is shot, Tobey refuses to tell Sephy what he knows or what he saw. Why won’t he talk to Sephy? What
are his reasons for staying silent? Was he right?
– What do you think would have happened if he had told Sephy all he knew?
– Or if he had told the police?
– The police complain that Meadowview residents have ‘three monkeys disease: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.’ What
do they mean? What difference would it have made if Tobey or anyone else in the Wasteland at the time had spoken up after
Callie’s shooting? Would you have spoken up if you had been present? If not, why not?
6. POLICE ATTITUDES
– Tobey recalls an incident in which he overheard two Cross police officers dismissing the killing of a Nought youth as ‘blankers
killing blankers’. How would this experience affect Tobey’s view of the police as a whole afterwards?
– From the varied incidents in the book which feature the police, do you think these officers were representative of the force as a
whole? If so, why? If not, why not?
– And how much harder does a single incident like this make the work of decent officers such as DI Boothe, who want to work
with all Meadowview residents towards making their streets safer?
– Do you believe that the gang leaders would have police officers working for them? Why? When Tobey first meets Rebecca
Dowd (page 216) she is not as he expected her to be.
– What did he expect her to be like? Why?
– Rebecca’s life may look good from the outside, but what problems does she face as a result of being the daughter of Vanessa
Dowd? What are her family’s expectations for her? And how limited are her opportunities?
– What are the plus points? Would you like to be in her situation?
– What would it be like to face life as a possible kidnap victim or target? To know that your father and uncle had been killed by a
– Does she deserve what happens to her in any way?
– And could Tobey have saved her life by taking her to McAuley as he is asked to?
– Tobey can’t understand how he and his mother hadn’t noticed Jessica’s drug use. What might have given her away?
What signs did they miss?
– When he finds his sister in trouble in the bathroom, does he do the right thing by not calling for help? What would you do if this
was your sister/brother/friend?
– Jess tells Tobey she does drugs not to find an answer, but as a way ‘to not mind so much about the question’ (page 363).
What do you think she means?
– As the book concludes, do you think Jessica will have stopped any drug use-or do you think she would continue?
Tobey begins the book as Mr Laid-back – determined to keep his head down and to avoid confrontation. Throughout, Malorie
Blackman shows a real change to Tobey’s character – elements of his personality that come through as a result of what
happens to him.
– Compare his reactions to Lucas and his friends when he first meets them outside the school, when he is with Callie
(page 80), and later when he is very involved with both gangs (page 328). How differently does Tobey behave? Which way of
dealing with the insults works the better for Tobey? How would you deal with a similar confrontation?
– Dan tells Tobey he is finally seeing ‘the real you’ (page 316). What does he mean? Has Tobey changed so very much? In
– Are McAuley and the Dowds correct when they assess Tobey and recognize elements in him that they identify with? Is
Tobey becoming more and more like those he begins by despising?
10. CALLIE AND TOBEY TOGETHER
Sometimes I don’t understand Callie. At all… Damn, but she’s complicated.
Sometimes I don’t understand Tobey. At all . . . Damn , but he’s dense.
-With this pair of statements, Malorie Blackman clearly shows how both Callie and Tobey are confused about their
relationship – and what the other is thinking. Why is there this misunderstanding between them? Do you understand how their
relationship develops in the first part of the book – until they become more than friends?
– What does Callie believe about Tobey’s past relationships? Is she right?
– And what does Tobey believe about Callie’s previous boyfriends? Is he right?
– Why is Callie keen to ‘cool it’ after they have made love? What is Tobey not able to tell her to convince her of his feelings?
Are girls more ready to express their feelings about their relationships than boys? Or are they prone to what Tobey calls
‘those girly let’s analyse-the-thing-to-death talks’?
– Callie’s friend Sammi advises Callie to let Tobey know what she feels or ‘he’s going to take what Misty keeps offering’.
What does she mean? And what what pressures are there on girls to feel this way in their relationships?
– Why is Tobey pushing Callie away at the end? What is he so afraid of?
10 a. THE FUTURE
– Both Callie and Tobey have feelings of guilt to resolve – Callie about the bomb that killed her Nana Jasmine, and Tobey about
those who have been hurt as a result of his actions, especially Rebecca. Do you think they can come to terms with these
feelings? Should they ask for outside help?
– What do you think the future holds for them now?
– Do you think they will stay together?
10 b. CALLIE AND TOBEY TOGETHER
For those of you who have followed the story of Callum and Sephy, Sephy and Jude, Callie Rose and Tobey through the
previous three novels in the Noughts & Crosses sequence . . .
– Do you feel that the events in Double Cross are an inevitable result of the events beforehand?
– Has the author taken the story forward into a new dimension that was exciting, challenging and totally believable for you?
– Do you want to know what happens for Tobey and Callie Rose now?
– And for the next generation?
– How many generations do you think it will take for the inequalities of the past to fade?
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