Steph Sinclair's Reviews > Half Bad

Half Bad by Sally Green
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When I first picked this book up from BEA, I wasn't very interested because I saw the word "witches" and thought, "NOPE, NOPE, NOPE." Even in my review policy it states that I don't review books about witches. Why? Well, because of Harry Potter. I didn't want to sit and compare the two and I had a feeling that I would. What made matters worse was the fact that ended up being toted as The Next Big Thing from The Hunger Games to, you guessed it, Harry Potter. So it's a good thing this book was nothing like Harry Potter.

Upon finishing Half Bad my first thought was, "HOLY SHIT!", so I went to Goodreads to see what everyone else thought. It's interesting to see how split most people are on this book, and it's not hard to understand why. The enjoyment of Half Bad is going to largely depend on your ability to adapt to the writing style. How do you feel about second person? How do you feel about first person? How do you feel about flipping back and forth from those two different point-of-views? If you answer is, "I can dig it!" then let's roll through the meadows together as I wax poetic about how awesome this book was. But if you answer is, "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it," then Half Bad might not be your cup of tea and I've got only one thing to say to you:

Good day sir

Half Bad is brutal and spares no punches as we are introduced to the main character, who lives in a cage. A cage. Immediately my interest was piqued. I knew this was a good sign for me because I'm the kind of reader that struggles with most book beginnings. However, the perils that Nathan endures really horrified me, and as terrible as it sounds, I couldn't stop reading about it.  There's nothing bright and sunny about Half Bad and the majority of it involves Nathan being ridiculed or tortured from a very young age because his father is the most hunted black witch. And so Nathan grows up alone in the community of white witches who despise him. He desperately wants to be accepted and not judged purely on his parentage, but no matter how hard he tries, the Council of White Witches continue to send restrictions:

-Any contact Nathan has with a white witch has to be reported
-He goes to the council for yearly assessments, where he is questioned about the father he's never met
-He can't have his Giving Ceremony with out permission (Think: Rite of Passage for Witches)
-He can't travel anywhere without first having permission

It gets pretty ridiculous with the amount of rules place on a child, but the Council has their prejudices, and it's clear they don't plan to let up. Nathan, who's only freedom included traveling to Wales every once in a while, refuses to ask permission for travel. Yet, his half-brother (a white witch), who genuinely cares about him, begs him to reconsider. That scene was one of the saddest in the book for me.
Later that night, when I am getting undressed, Arran has a go at talking to me. I guess Gran has asked him to try. He says I should "rethink," "perhaps ask permission to go to one place in Wales," and some other stuff like that. Adult stuff. Gran's stuff.
I just say, "Can I have permission to go to the bathroom? Please?"
He doesn't reply, so I throw my jeans on the floor, get on my knees and say, "Can I have permission to go to the bathroom? Please?"
He doesn't reply but drops to his knees with me and hugs me. We stay like that. Him hugging me and me still stiff with anger at him, wanting to hurt him too.
After a long time I hug him back, just a little.

But somehow in all the abuse, Nathan finds a little happiness in a girl named Annalise. Their romance was both short and sweet, and inevitably would fail since it's forbidden for white witches to fraternize with black witches. (I want to take the time to point out that this is NOT a Paranormal Romance.) Sometime later, he ends up living in a cage outside.

The writing, as I mentioned before, flips back and forth from second to first person in the beginning, but tapers off and settles on first person present tense. I personally loved it because it's so different from other books. In fact, I don't think I've ever read a novel with second person that wasn't a Choose Your Own Adventure. I felt like I could really get into Nathan's mind and understand how he felt. It also made certain scenes more intense because it forces the reader to imagine themselves in his situation. So imagining my hand being burned off from acid wasn't fun, but different.

Kat and I happened to be reading this book at the same time and had similar thoughts about it being difficult to read at first. It was very depressing in the beginning to see a child being mistreated and tortured. I don't often encounter that in most of the YA novels that I've read. But it does remind me of the same feelings I felt while reading The Hunger Games in that respect. The scenes don't fade into black, Nathan screams throughout some of them and they just felt very visual and hard to process at times. I'm not a reader of horror novels nor a watcher of scary movies that have a lot of violence, so my tolerance level for this might be low. However, I do think those scenes are where Green truly shined. Plus, they'll make for a great movie.

When I went through and read a few reviews, some mentioned the implications of race since Nathan is a black witch being persecuted by white witches. It's interesting because I never really thought about it that way. Looking back, I suppose it is there. The black witches and white witches are different races in a way, but I viewed it more playing on the long accepted mythology that black witches were evil and white witches good and simply putting another spin on it. In any case, I wasn't offended by anything intentional or unintentional.

Strangely enough, even though Half Bad is about witches, there's not much magic in it. There are a few instances where there are spells mentioned and used, but the vast majority boils down to witches making potions. There are no wands or cloaks or three-quarter platforms. I think this was smart, otherwise, would we see a lot of comparisons between Half Bad and Harry Potter floating around. As far as I can tell, they don't have anything in common besides the same paranormal creature.

As much as I loved the narrative and premise, I do agree with other reviewers that mention the second half isn't as strong as the first. This might have something to do with how violent the first half is, and therefore, a lot more engaging to read. I don't know if that's the right word, but the first half is definitely more interesting. However, I still enjoyed the second half because if the book had been filled entirely of violent torture, I don't think I could have continued reading. The second half mostly involves Nathan, newly escaped from the Council, searching for a black witch named Mercury who can give him his three gifts on his 17th birthday.

The ending took me by surprise due to the reappearance from a certain character. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but I am eager to continue this series. Do I think it's the Next Big Thing? Who knows. But it's a damn good book.

ARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery.
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Reading Progress

June 7, 2013 – Shelved
June 7, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
June 7, 2013 – Shelved as: bea-2013
June 7, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
June 7, 2013 – Shelved as: penguin
October 28, 2013 – Shelved as: sent-to-cb-reviewer
December 13, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
March 2, 2014 –
page 75
19.04% "This is pretty excellent so far. I don't want to stop reading, but I suppose I have to eat..."
March 5, 2014 –
page 130
32.99% "This book just gets better and better!"
March 5, 2014 –
page 145
36.8% "Wow. This is brutal."
March 5, 2014 –
page 186
47.21% "RAGE"
Started Reading
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014-reads
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014-favs
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: male-pov
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: dat-cover-yo
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: i-really-enjoyed-it
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: oh-yeah-baby
March 6, 2014 – Shelved as: original-and-creative
March 6, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 8, 2014 – Shelved as: gave-away

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Julia (new)

Julia can't wait to hear your review. Everyone seems to vary on their view.


Natalie Seeing so many opposing reviews to this one! Interested to hear your thoughts!


Liz Glad to hear that you liked this book. It seems to be getting a lot of mixed reactions. I ended up loving it.


message 4: by Travis (new)

Travis Bughi I like that you took the time to address the other reviews you've read.


O.R. Lovely! I'm loving it so far even though it isn't easy to read, I'm weak hearted, haha.


Lissa I love witch books, especially ones with dark and grim content, so this sounds right up my alley. Can't wait for it to come out!


message 7: by Julia (new)

Julia I might have a hard time with the parts in second person. Sounds distracting.


Steph Sinclair @Liz, Right?! It's so different!

@Travis, it's nice to see other perspectives. Some of the things that bothered the other reviewers went right over my head.

@TheOracle, Ohhh, what part are you at? It gets less violent as the book goes on.

@Lissa, this sounds like a book made you for then! Let me know what you think whenever you get around to checking it out!

@Julia, I thought I would too, but I ended up really enjoying those the most. You never know!


message 9: by Julia (new)

Julia I will try it out. I am prejudice due to my dislike of the choose-your-own-adventure books. I need to just get over it. :-)


Liz Steph wrote: "@Liz, Right?! It's so different!

@Travis, it's nice to see other perspectives. Some of the things that bothered the other reviewers went right over my head.

@TheOracle, Ohhh, what part are you a..."


It is!


message 11: by O.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

O.R. Steph wrote: "@Liz, Right?! It's so different!

@Travis, it's nice to see other perspectives. Some of the things that bothered the other reviewers went right over my head.

@TheOracle, Ohhh, what part are you a..."


Just read the part where Nathan asks for permission to go to the bathroom and Arran hugs him. Tears.
But, I love their relationship. And I love how Nathan's character is portrayed, he seems very realistic to me.


Steph Sinclair @TheOracle, AHHHHH, that scene got me in the feels. I want more of them in book two if possible. Their relationship was one of the best parts of the first half.


message 13: by O.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

O.R. Steph wrote: "@TheOracle, AHHHHH, that scene got me in the feels. I want more of them in book two if possible. Their relationship was one of the best parts of the first half."

It was! Or when Nathan was saying goodbye to him, drew the picture of them for Arran, when he wanted to be there for him but couldn't... All their moments were precious.
Now I'm back to the cage part... When they captured Nathan and what they did to him was awful. I hope he will get his revange, haha...


Andie Not the point of your review, but that Wonka picture is brilliant hahahaha!


Maria It sounds like it's a really good book I usually hate second point of view but I'm going to make myself adjust.


message 16: by Joseph Salvatore (new)

Joseph Salvatore Vitale wtf do you have against HP series?


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