A lot has happened, and there is much catching up to be done.
Callie Rose is the daughter of Sephy, a "Cross" from the ruling black elite, and Callum, a "Nought" from the colourless underclass. The flowering of her parents' transgressive romance in a world of social injustice and violent activism kicked off the series in the book that gave it its name.
As this latest novel begins, year-old Callie is struggling to come to terms with a bomb blast that killed her grandmother Jasmine and dangerous uncle Jude. She was secretly responsible for this bomb and struggles to bury her guilt and fears while getting on with her life in Meadowview, a neighbourhood where the less affluent Crosses reside alongside the Noughts, going to school and enjoying an ambiguous friendship with Nought Tobey, for whom she nurtures more intimate feelings.
Somewhere in the background gangs are trafficking drugs and carving up their turf. Meanwhile, Callie Rose is paying more attention to feeling hurt when Tobey takes a sniff her perfume and tells her she smells like biscuits.
As for Tobey, he's a colourless kid, a "Blanker", who's made it into the decent school and is determined to get out and up into a better life. He resists the chance to earn some extra cash by making deliveries for the Nought Double cross malorie blackman online dating thug McAuley, even though he desperately wants the money. And he, too, nurtures strong desires for Callie, but finds it almost impossible to open his heart. Neither can quite believe it when the guard of friendship drops and they become lovers.
The following day Callie insists on accompanying Tobey to the Wasteland to collect his money from a friend for whom he has made just one delivery. What happens next shatters their world and sends Tobey on a journey of revenge that takes him to the very heart of the warfare between criminal gangs and corrupt police officers. At the heart of this pacy novel is a young man struggling to flourish and do the right thing rather than simply survive in a world where "the harder life got.
Tobey's deepening involvement with the two warring gangs and his attempts to play them off against each other cause him to bloody his hands. He watches himself becoming what he despises with a chilling awareness that is as exciting as it is poignant.
Blackman does not flinch from transforming her hero into an anti-hero. And yet there is always the opportunity for something humane to lead him out of the tunnel of betrayal and violence. The question is, will it prevail? And all the time, in the very fabric of this world that is so close to contemporary urban life, is that inspired reversal of the racial power balance between the Crosses and Noughts.
To read about a young white man grappling with the challenges, social and psychological, that harry many young black men is enlightening in subtle ways, though Blackman's clever use of the thriller genre lifts the book beyond consciousness-raising. Double Cross certainly stands up on its own.
For a newcomer to the series it does take a bit of effort to piece the people and past events together, but it's all worth it.
Blackman "gets" people, especially young adults, in all their tentativeness, determination and energy. She "gets" humanity as a whole, too. Most of all, she writes a stonking good story.
And this is what takes the book beyond the moment, giving it a timeless value.