In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?
In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.
Half Bad is one of those books that just pops out of nowhere and slaps you in the face with how good it is. I picked this one up because it was about witches, and who doesn’t love witches? I was amazed at how raw and powerful the storyline was. I was so intrigued and mind blown over the twists and turns that Sally Green provided. I felt like I was constantly being knocked off my feet. Whenever I picked myself back up again, I was instantly knocked back down.
When I first started Half Bad, I didn’t like it. That didn’t last long; it only lasted about 20 pages. The problem was that it’s written in second person point of view for the first two chapters, and I cannot stand having the word “you” thrown around that much. My preference is first person. I can handle third person POV, but do NOT stick me with second person POV. I actually almost DNF’d it right away because of that. So if you have that same problem starting out don’t freak out. Stick with it and it WILL get better!
What I absolutely loved about Half Bad was all of the messages thrown around. I loved how Half Bad really twisted around the common definitions for black and white. White magic is often depicted as “good” while black is “bad.” This book really makes you think about those concepts since the “white” witches were very hostile, abusive, aggressive, and dangerous. The “black” witches weren’t the best witches, either, but I did see more good come from them than the white witches. I think that’s a great concept for people to think about. It’s difficult to just place people in certain categories, and I felt that Half Bad did a really great job challenging those beliefs.
While Half Bad is about witches and is obviously a paranormal read, Contemporary lovers are going to absolutely adore this one. It’s actually pretty low key on the paranormal aspects. It focuses a lot more on Nathan’s trauma and trying to work around his personal scars. My heart broke for Nathan so many times. It was difficult for me at times to watch this little boy grow up in a semi normal life and then watch three years of his life be full or torture and abuse. Once Nathan is captured, he is never the same. I thought that Half Bad did a good job of showcasing trauma, depression, and mental illness. It seems weird to me that so much could be going on in one book. I really think that this is a book that could suit lovers of all genres.
As far as romances go, Half Bad doesn’t really have any. Nathan has a crush on a girl from the very beginning of the book but that is so low key to the rest of the story. I feel like that relationship will probably grow a little more as the series continues. So people need to be aware that this is not a book to fall head over heels in love with a romance story. That aspect doesn’t really exist in this one. I actually found it a little creepy that Nathan was so hung up on his crush because he went for years without even seeing her. Seeing as they hadn’t seen each other since Nathan was 14, I felt that it was a little weird he was so hung up on her at 16 and 17.
On to a more negative note, the last 100 pages of Half Bad were very difficult to get through. It started to read more as an adult novel than a YA book. It also got reallllllly boring and weird. I obviously wasn’t going to DNF it when I had invested over 300 pages into the book, but if it had started out that way I never would have finished it. It concerns me a little bit about the second book. It’s rare that such a good book loses it’s heat toward the end….so….we’ll see.
Before I reached those last 100 pages, I was comparing Half Bad to the Harry Potter series. That’s how good it was. It obviously wasn’t AS GOOD as HP, but it’s been a long time since I’ve found such a good paranormal/witch book. However, I do wish that there would have been more magic and paranormal aspects to the book. Don’t go into this book thinking that it’s full of witches and magic. It’s not. While the majority of the characters are witches, I can’t really think of any magic that happened in the book. I can think of the “gifts” that some of the witches had, but this is not a book filled with wands, spells, and magic cauldrons.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was originally a 5 star book for me, but those last 100 pages bumped it down to a 4. I would still recommend it, not only because it’s a great book but because it has also been optioned for film by Fox 2000. I will be reading the second book when it comes out, and I can’t wait to watch the movie. Fingers crossed that it happens!
Half Bad is out in stores today. Go buy your copy!
Publication Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile