Author: Sally Green (Twitter)
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy
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?
There is something to be said for a novel that challenges its readers to think, as well as feel, while reading its pages. When an author chooses to break through the norm and give readers something more, asking that they become truly invested in a world that's entirely different than our own, they're asking us to have faith in them, their story and their ability to write. Sally Green is, without a doubt, a great fantasy writer. Though Half Bad is, admittedly, a challenge at times, there's a stunning complexity to it that is absolutely breathtaking and, as a reader, I've never been one to back down from a challenge, so this was definitely the book for me.
Half Bad offers readers a bit of a conundrum - and a challenge - from the start. Ms. Green writes much of the novel in second person narrative, which is definitely tricky at times, but something I can definitely appreciate. It's a challenging perspective to read and write from, so I'm certain some people felt an obvious disconnect. On the other hand, I appreciated the complexity of it, and I felt that was a sort of poetic nuance that really worked for me, heightening the storyline and forcing me to emote a lot more for our protagonist, Nathan. I've always been the type of reader that enjoys a good challenge, and if the author faces down their challenge, well, I can appreciate a novel a lot more.
The plot line of Half Bad was truly nothing short of exceptional. It would have been incredibly easy for Ms. Green to fall back on the age-old fantasy tale of witches, light vs. dark and the dichotomy between good and evil. Instead, we're offered a protagonist with whom we can't help but fall hopelessly in love as we watch heartache after heartache pummel him nearly into oblivion. Nathan was a passionate, believable, heartwrenching main character that made it nearly impossible for me to put the novel down, if only for the fact that I couldn't help but become invested in his plight, which is painful and horrific, at best. He is the perfect protagonist for our story, forcing readers to feel every ounce of his pain with him, all the while becoming fully enmeshed in the world within the book's pages.
I'll admit that I felt that Ms. Green's world-building lacked a bit of oomph at points. While cleverly-crafted, the reveal of many elements felt tedious and a bit drawn out at times. Once revealed though, it was easy to see why, exactly, Half Bad was created in this manner. As readers, we're forced to put aside our preconceived wants and wishes and take this story at face value, giving us the ride of a lifetime. It's a novel that embraces witches in a new sort of way - dark and mysterious and, at times, altogether evil. Black Witches and White Witches, all mixed together with the human world, gives us a whirlwind of adventure and drama that is exhilarating, painful and far too real at times, the latter element which is usually lacking in such stories much of the time.
Overall, I can understand the extreme divide between good and poor reviews of this book. Half Bad is a challenge, of course, but it's also a story that is well worth every bit of effort you put into reading it. The characters are, without a doubt, the highlight of the novel, and if you enjoy true depth to your books, this is the one for you. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to upper YA audiences, especially those who enjoy complex paranormal fiction and fantasy.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.