Discussion Questions: Noughts and Crosses

What’s the story?

Voted one of the UK’s best-loved books, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses is a seminal piece of YA fiction; a true modern classic.

Sephy is a Cross: dark-skinned and beautiful, she lives a life of privilege and power. But she’s lonely, and burns with injustice at the world she sees around her. Callum is a nought: pale-skinned and poor, he’s considered to be less than nothing – a blanker, there to serve Crosses – but he dreams of a better life.

They’ve been friends since they were children, and they both know that’s as far as it can ever go. Noughts and Crosses are fated to be bitter enemies – love is out of the question. Then – in spite of a world that is fiercely against them – these star-crossed lovers choose each other. But this is a love story that will lead both of them into terrible danger . . . and have shocking repercussions for generations to come.

Spark a debate

This resource includes questions on all four books in the Noughts & Crosses sequence. Below is a little of what you can expect. Download the pack for more.


• Noughts & Crosses is set in a world where one group of people are treated as second-class citizens because of the colour of their skin – an apartheid society. Although this has clear parallels with the history of our own world, Malorie Blackman has reversed the more familiar historical situation so that the people discriminated against are those with white skin – noughts.
• How well does this reversal succeed in making you see things from another perspective?
• The Sunday Times states that the book ‘inspires the reader to wish for a world that is not divided by colour or class’. Do you agree? Does the book feel inspiring in this way to you?
• How does the discrimination in this society affect something as simple as a trip out to Celebration Park?
• Consider this day out from the perspective of both Callum and Sephy. Does anything make you angry?
• Are there any elements/details about discrimination which surprised you?

• ‘Blank by name, blank by nature,’ says Lola, a classmate of Sephy’s (page 87); and Callum is horrified when Sephy (Chapter 5) uses the term ‘blankers’ in the heat of the moment. How hurtful are derogatory terms of this nature? What does it say about the person who uses them?
• Is Callum’s father, Ryan, right when he defends his use of the term ‘blanker’ by saying (Chapter 28), ‘We name it, we claim it.’?
• What terms are used by the noughts to describe the Crosses? How do you think Sephy would feel if Callum described her in such a way? What is the best way to respond if someone uses a similar term about you?

• We first meet Sephy and Callum on a beach, thinking of their futures – and of each other. How different are their expectations of the future? Their ambitions? How realistic are they?
• They kiss for the first time but Sephy is not keen. When do you think she begins to think of Callum as more than just a friend?
• How difficult is it for Sephy and Callum to have a relationship, given their different backgrounds? What problems still exist between people who fall in love?

• The noughts who want equality are fighting the injustice in more than one way. One approach is that of the Liberation Militia; the other comes from Alex Luther and his protests. Callum’s parents, Ryan and Meggie, take opposing views (Chapter 28); which do you think has the stronger argument?
• Can violent protest ever be justified?
• What is the attraction of the LM to the noughts who get involved?
• How does Sephy decide to get involved (see Chapter 89)? How does she feel she can make a difference? If you were Callum, which route would you follow? And if you were Sephy?

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