I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Half Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Life Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin Books Limited on 2014-03-03
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches. You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.Easy. SALLY GREEN lives in north-west England. She has had jobs (paid and unpaid) and even a profession but at last has found the time to write down the stories she used to only be able to daydream about. She likes to read, walk in the country and would like to drink less coffee. Half Bad is her first novel.
On paper, Half Bad by Sally Green sounds like the perfect book for me. There are witches. The setting is in England. There’s a battle between good and evil with some shades of grey. While I did enjoy a lot of Half Bad and devoured it in one day, I failed to fall in love and flail all over the book. There was a bit of a disconnect on my end between myself and Half Bad. I think that there is a lot to recommend this book, however, I am kind of questioning all of the hype for it.
Half Bad opens with a second person point of view about a boy in a cage. Then after the first part it shifts into first person point of view. Nathan, the main character, is a young witch in England. Much like Harry Potter, his guardian (actually his mother) does not seem to like him. His sibling, like Dudley, treats him horribly. I kind of expected to read about Nathan living in a cupboard beneath the stairs. No one likes Nathan because he is a half-Code, meaning he is half Black witch and half White witch. There’s this big war between the White witches and the Black witches, so Nathan’s existence presents a problem. The White witches treat him terribly, but allow him to live for a very specific reason. Nathan, on the other hand, is just waiting for the day that he turns 17 so that he can receive his gifts and be a full blooded witch. Plenty more happens, what with how Nathan gets put into the cage, a sort of attraction romance, and Nathan’s life growing up. However, the real action happens about 200 or so pages into the book.
It is likely that my disconnect with this book comes from my disconnect with Nathan’s character. I mean, sure, he has the issue of barely being able to read and just being passed through school. He is brutally bullied, to the point of the violence being stomach turning. This should endear him to me, as I like reading about characters who have to struggle. However, it just seemed like there was no light for Nathan. Everything was always sad and depressing and down. Nathan is always hoping for his father, the baddest witch of all the Black witches, Marcus, to come and save him. Again, also sad. I guess, I kind of wish Nathan had been more fully fleshed out rather than used as a whipping boy for the White Witches and character development, to be more specific. Even his romance with the purest White witch, a girl named Annalise is lackluster. Basically, she’s in the same class as him at school, she isn’t mean and she’s very beautiful, ergo, Nathan falls for her.
As a reader, I often find myself asking WHY when I read, with the question ultimately being answered in the end. With Sally Green’s Half Bad, I found myself questioning as well, but as I finish the book I am still confused. I found myself questioning why, if the White witches want Nathan to kill his father and to choose being a White witch for his code, did they treat him so badly? Do they not know that you always trap more flies with honey than with vinegar. I just did not get it. As for the magic system, I thought that was interesting. Each witch comes of age on their 17th birthday and through a ceremony involving blood and a parent or grandparent giving them three gifts. After the ceremony, the witch will manifest with a special ability. Their powers are limited and so, this is a world of magic that has rules and conventions.
The writing in Half Bad is fairly unique and stylistically intriguing. I liked the mix of second person and first person narrative. It breaks the story up in a way that kept my attention. Stylistically, the book does remind me a bit of Patrick Ness, ALMOST, but not quite. It does feel more literary than it feels commercial. The pacing is fast, this is the kind of book you can read in a single day. I liked with Green was trying to do with the story, examine the implications of Good and Evil and Black and White and show that there are shades of grey. It seems like she’s trying to subvert those tropes. Does it entirely work? For me, not so much. Perhaps for a more discerning reader it may work much better. If you are the sort of reader who is in it for the magic and the world building plus the writing style, you will love Half Bad by Sally Green. If you are there for the characterization and the romance, it might be best to find another book to read.