Release Date ~ March 4, 2014
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ARC received from Penguin Canada to review
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.
The story in Half Bad is one bursting with emotion and tension. The writing is thoughtful, and Nathan's character stayed with me long after I finished reading this book.
- A story that simmers (slowly):
The main character, Nathan, is absolutely filled with pent up emotions but the plot progression is fairly slow - don't expect action-packed excitement. Despite the external circumstances endangering Nathan, much of the story revolves around his internal struggles. I found that worked very well for the story in Half Bad, but you have to prepare yourself for a slow-moving plot.
- Harry Potter (without Hogwarts):
Let me explain what I mean by this: Half Bad is not at all the same story as Harry Potter. However, it felt to me like it could very well be set in a similar type of world - but not Hogwarts. Think of the United Kingdom where there are social divides between witches, and the magic is subtly woven into the real world. More like the later books in Harry Potter where the Ministry of Magic takes a more prominent role in the story. The way the magic works is interesting as well, because it isn't exactly something that can be learned but more like a skill inherited or gifted to the witch.
The story isn't quite told in chronological order though, and I found it jarring at times to jump around in the book's timeline. There were some ways in which it was effective and kept my focus narrowed on certain aspects of the plot. But overall, it felt mostly jumbled to me as a reader.
I was most confused by the second person narration used briefly on occasion. Second person narration is so hard for me to connect with as a reader! And it didn't feel like it added anything to the story. I had no problem relating to Nathan's character or his circumstances otherwise and the second person narrative was just confusing. And the use of this technique was so minimal, it seemed out of place.
That being said, Half Bad is a remarkably emotive book. Sally Green's storytelling is beautiful, and she touches on a wide range of issues and feelings with it. I felt a complete connection to Nathan and I was fully invested in what happened to him. For that reason alone, I would recommend reading Half Bad along with the benefit of a curious magical world. This story is utterly heartbreaking and the events endured by Nathan are horrific and shocking - which is why his story has stuck with me.