I’ve recently been reviewing all of the entries in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series. In the first entry we learn about Callum McGregor’s and Persephone Hadley’s love story but a character who might be overlooked by some readers is Callum’s older sister, Lynette who I would argue has a deeper impact on the story than at first glance.
In this post I’m going to take a study of this character, what happens to her in the story and how Lynette impacts on the wider narrative.
Note: this post does contain major spoilers for the first entry in the series.
Who is Lynette?
Lynette is the oldest of the three McGregor children with her two younger brothers Jude and Callum. She is twenty years old and she is described as having “the same brown hair, eyes the same shade of grey” as Callum, although their brother Jude looks more like their mum. Callum also describes how he has a very close relationship with his sister as “she was the one who looked after me when Mum had to work and couldn’t take me with her”.
In the very first chapter which is a prologue from three years earlier, we learn that something bad has happened to Lynette, as Meggie loses her job with the Hadley’s so can no longer afford Jude’s education and it is also the same night that she “disappeared”.
We soon realise that Lynette has not actually disappeared physically but instead there is something traumatic that she has been through and she refuses to talk about it, preferring to withdraw from the world instead.
The night before Callum starts school, Jude and Callum are having an argument where Callum calls Sephy a dagger and Callum describes how the argument manages to reach Lynette although “not much bought my sister out of her mysterious world”.
Indeed, Callum describes how she looks twenty but her mind is outside time and that she is “\way with the fairies” because of something that happened to her that was so traumatic she barely speaks or go out.
It isn’t too long before Lynette is having a strange episode. Callum describes her as having “that look back in her eyes” and though he tries desperately to distract her she announces that she isn’t like her family and she is a Cross and she insists her skin is dark, not white like ttheirs. It is also clear this makes her happy, as she has a “broad, beaming, genuinely happy smile that lit every line and crease of her face and squeezed my heart.”
How does Lynette impact the views of Jude and Callum?
Both Jude and Callum react in both similar and different ways to Lynette’s mental health issues. Both are quite frustrated with Lynette but whereas Callum doesn’t want to fight, Jude acts far more aggressively – calling her a “stupid cow” and saying that Callum “thinks he’s better than us and as good as the Crosses”.
Also it is Jude which causes Lynette to have a breakdown later on when they have a fight and he drags Lynette to a mirror, forcing her to see that she is in fact white.
“You’re the same as me. As white as me. Who d’you think you are? I’m sick and tired of being looked down on by you. You’re the most pathetic person I know. If you hate what you are, do something about it. Just die or something! And if there is a God, you’ll come back as one of those ruddy daggers you love so much, and then I can stop feeling guilty about hating you.”
It is arguable this sibling rivalry is partly what sets the wheels in motion for both Jude and Callum’s journey.
In Jude’s case he does have an element of jealousy that Lynette and Callum both got to go to school whereas Meggie had to pull him out because she couldn’t afford it. This jealousy soon turns to hatred which he directs at the Crosses and ultimately makes him join the Liberation Militia. There is also probably some guilt over this incident which he tries to block out but does so in a very violent way, which we will explore further down below.
Meanwhile, Callum does feel much closer to Lynette but it is a possibility that some of Jude’s hatred does start to wash on Callum and he feels a sense of responsibility to Jude that pushes him down a dark road that he doesn’t really want to go down.
The cause of the trauma
Just after Jude forces Lynette to see herself as a nought, we finally learn the backstory of what caused Lynette to react the way she did. She had entered into a mixed-race relationship with Jed, a Cross. The night Meggie lost her job, they were viciously attacked by a gang of Noughts, almost beating Jed to death and putting Lynette in hospital.
Jude and Callum’s dad then tell them she kept the relationship a secret as “she was afraid of what we’d all say. So is it any wonder that she can’t bear to think of herself as one of us any more? Is it any wonder she can’t even leave this house any more?”
Though Jude does apologise to Lynette for his outburst, Lynette does come out of her dreamlike state but her fragile state of mind is significantly worse and the damage has well and truely been done. At that moment however Callum looks at his dad and brother and describes how:
“My face was the reflection of Dad and Jude. My expression was theirs. My thoughts and feelings and hates and fears were all theirs, just as theirs were mine, and though I like to think I’m quick and on the ball, I hadn’t even realized.”
It is at this pivotal moment when Callum and Jude both begin to hate the situation that Lynette ended up in and both of them begin to hate the Crosses, blaming them for putting her in this state (although it is arguable that it is the noughts themselves which did this). Though Jude succumbs to his hatred much more than Callum does it is definitely there for both characters by this point.
Unable to cope with her new reality, Lynette’s mental health quickly deteriorates as she used her belief that she was a Cross to distance herself from the Noughts that attacked her. However it becomes too much and she decides to kill herself, though she does leave a note for Callum.
Within it she describes her mental state as being simply that she is “tired and I want out” She also reiterates that it is “the return of my sanity, I can stand. [However] It’s the return to reality that I can’t cope with.” She also describes that she doesn’t “want to live in a world where what I am isn’t good enough, where nothing I do will ever be good enough because I’m a nought and I always will be and nothing will ever change that. I hope you and Sephy have more luck than Jed and me – if that’s what you want.”
This letter is only read by Callum and he reacts with quite a lot of anger over what Lynette has done and for her leaving him and perhaps it is this anger which drives him to become more extreme in his world view, driving him away from Sephy and towards the lure of the Liberation Militia, which ultimately results in his downfall.
However Lynette’s letter also offers a clue to Callum’s saving grace, his deep friendship with Sephy which means he can never truely hate all Crosses, whereas Jude doesn’t have any connection to them so it is much easier for him to hate them. Though Blackman does raise an interesting parallel in the second novel where Jude is friends with Cara Imega and is offered the same lifeline that Callum does, however he is too far gone to be saved and succumbs to his hatred.
Parallels to Callum’s death
Lynette’s death also draws some parallels to Callum’s execution at the end of the story and Blackman may have been using it to comment on the consequences of living life with hate in your heart.
Lynette was a victim of that hatred and lost everything, including her life, as she couldn’t recover from the unprovoked attack.
By the end of the novel however, Callum has succumbed to the same hatred that caused Lynette’s injuries to his demons and joined the Liberation Militia. However, his and his brother’s actions caused him to lose everything – his dad is executed, his brother is in hiding and Callum is about to lose his life for his involvement in the kidnapping of Sephy. Even though in the end his love for her won out and he actually helped her to escape and made love to her, resulting in her becoming pregnant, his hatred meant he had already passed the point of no return and the Cross-led government decide to throw the weight of the law at him.
Whilst in prison and awaiting execution, Callum draws this distinction as well, stating: “When she’d [Lynette] died, part of me had despised her for being a coward. Part of me had hated her for leaving me. It’d all been about me. Now I thought about all the things Lynny had been through. I’d allowed all the things that’d happened to me to rob me of my humanity. Do unto others before they did unto you, that’d been my philosophy. That’s how I’d coped with the world. Lynny’s solution was better. Just fade out, until you were ready to fade back in. Only she hadn’t been ready. Maybe that’s why she’d died. She’d been pulled out of her unreal world too soon.”
In his words, he had allowed his hatred to boil over and ended having to face the consequences, Lynette however had internalised it and tried to escape from it and possibly would have come out the other side in a better place than Callum did, instead of trying to pursue revenge.
From this article it can be seen Lynette has a very key role in the development of both Jude and Callum’s stories and without her many of the pivotal moments within Noughts and Crosses may not have taken place. If you have read Noughts and Crosses, I would love to know your thoughts on the series. I’ve also written other essays on this series, including asking the question whether the series is a dystopia or not.