Emily May's Reviews > Half Bad

Half Bad by Sally Green
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really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, paranormal-uf, arc, 2014

Do you know a story that goes something like this >>>> There's a poor family consisting of a mother and her bunch of kids, each one from a different father. Then there's that one kid (or more) who had a dad who was known for causing trouble... maybe he drank a lot, got into fights, ended up in prison... you know the kid I'm talking about? The one who has that dad? Well, everyone expects he'll turn out just the same. Everyone has their eye on that kid his whole life, expecting him to become just like his father, watching for his first mistake. And it makes him angry that people constantly expect the worst of him. It makes him lash out and get into fights and become something of a delinquent. It makes him exactly what everyone expected him to be. And people nod their heads and say "See! I told you so". And no one will ever know if that kid was always his father's son or if the other people in his life made him that way.

Half Bad is, in many ways, that story. The story of a boy who was never given a chance. A story of nature vs nurture, outsiders, family and prophecy. But... with witches!



So, apparently there is some juice left in British YA after all, I'd begun to assume JKR had drained that one dry. I only hope that the US publishers don't Americanize it for you readers across the pond because I think there's an eerie English/Scottish/Welsh countryside atmosphere that permeates this novel and adds to the overall experience. Which I thought was wonderful, by the way. This is a book set in an alternate universe version of England where witches live alongside humans (or Fains): the "good" white witches, and the "evil" black witches. Then there's half bloods (or half codes) like Nathan who are the product of both. Unsurprisingly - and as every decent novel should remember, in my opinion - there is never really anything as simple as "good" or "evil", despite what Nathan has been told his whole life. As he grows up in a world that distrusts him, he realises that the good guys often do bad things and those who are evil might not be all they first seem.

Half Bad is two main things and both of them are good. For the first, it is a coming-of-age story about a boy who must grow up in a difficult world and learn to survive the best way he can. It's strange how very... real this story felt, despite the strong fantasy element throughout. I suppose that's because of the parallels that can easily be drawn between Nathan's story and that of anyone who has ever been given a label before they've even had a chance to work out who they are. I really liked all of the characters in this novel (and there were quite a few). The author seems to have that special knack for delivering characters who do bad things and make the wrong decisions but still manage to get you on their side. Characters you initially think are going to be merely "evil" (like Celia) are developed into something far more three dimensional and complex.

But I said this book was two things and it is. As well as a very realistic story about a boy growing up, it's also a fast-paced, vicious, gruesome page-turner. It's not a small book but once I found time to sit down and read it, I was mesmerised until I finished it late last night. My friend practically had to drag me away to go see 12 Years a Slave, even though I'd been looking forward to it for ages.

Now... where is the next book? WANT. NEED. MUST HAVE.

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Reading Progress

November 6, 2013 – Shelved
December 30, 2013 – Started Reading
January 24, 2014 –
page 88
22.34% "I hope this isn't speaking too soon... but I'm loving this."
January 24, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)


message 1: by Brandi (new)

Brandi This sounds amazing! That cover- love.


Emily May I know! I just wish I had more time to read right now, lol. So, so busy... :(


Faye, la Patata I WANT TO REAAAAAD THIIIIS


Stuti (Turmeric isn't your friend. It will fly your ship I pushed this one waaaaaaaaaaay back on my tbr but I'm picking it up. Right now! Because I want those eyes, I've a;ways wanted them! Especially black or ruby red.


Emily May @Brandi I sent you an email :)

@Stuti Aaahhh, pressure!! I hope you love this now I've practically made you read it :D


message 6: by Hayat (new) - added it

Hayat Great review, Emily. This book sounds fantastic and just the kind of YA book I've been looking for.


Emily May @Shoujo Of course! Message me your email and I'll send it :)

@Hayat Thank you ^_^ Hope you like it!


Amanda G. (Nellie and Co. I've been dying to read this book since I saw it was coming out but was rejected on NetGalley :(
I'm so glad you enjoyed it though!


Emily May Oops, sorry about that. I emailed you :)


message 10: by Ashley (new) - added it

Ashley This sounds like a great read, can't wait for it to come out in the states. I really hope they do not change anything to make it "more American".
- Ashley


Faye, la Patata I LOVE you, Emily :D Thanks!


Stephanie Tibbs This sounds fantastic! I can't wait until I get my hands on this!


message 13: by Tandie (new) - added it

Tandie You completely sold me on this one. Wow!


message 14: by TL (new)

TL sounds amazing! How gruesome/vicious is it? *Might order this straight from UK*


message 15: by Mica (new) - added it

Mica P. Sounds intriguing. Btw - what did you think of 12 Years a Slave?


message 16: by Quang (new)

Quang Nguyen Great! :D Still 36 days from its publication, though.


Emily May @Terri There are a couple of gory torture scenes - the author certainly has no problem giving all the gritty details!

@Mica I thought it was really good. Well, "good" seems the wrong word given the content, but it was very powerful.


message 18: by Brigid (last edited Jan 25, 2014 06:14PM) (new) - added it

Brigid In reference to americanizing the book for the U.S. market, are you talking about whether the publisher will want to change certain slang words/language. Thus, changing the author's voice. Has this happened often? I can't recall since I'm American. I loved your review Emily. I'll definitely pick this up when it releases.


Brenna Whoo, this book sounds great! I can't wait to get my hands on it!


message 20: by Hira (new) - added it

Hira Another book i've added to TBR list thanks to your review....thanks a lot :) :) :)


message 21: by Hira (new) - added it

Hira *my


message 22: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Very good review. When I first started reading it I didn't think this would be a book I'd be interested in but by the end of the review I was sold.


Emily May Brigid wrote: "In reference to americanizing the book for the U.S. market, are you talking about whether the publisher will want to change certain slang words/language. Thus, changing the author's voice. Has this..."

Quite a bit. I know they changed a lot of general Brit words and slang in Harry Potter - though maybe not in every edition. I think it's okay to do that with some books if maybe you want the audience to relate to it more, but other books - like this one - would be weakened by it. The atmosphere/setting works really well in Half Bad so it would be a shame to lose that.


message 24: by Cataluna6 (new) - added it

Cataluna6 This sounds awesome, going to have to pick up a copy. I'd heard a little about this book, but your review has sold me on it :)


Emily May Yay! Hope you like it:)


message 26: by Kristy (new) - added it

Kristy Emily - You make me want to read too many books! :)


message 27: by Emily May (last edited Jan 28, 2014 06:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emily May :D Read it! Read it! Read it!


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review. Looks amazing! :D Now it's higher on my TBR list.


message 29: by TL (new)

TL just pre-ordered the paperback from the UK...comes out in March, whoo!

Thank you Emily May for bringing this to my attention :)


Emily May No problem! Hope you like it :D


message 31: by TL (new)

TL me too :)


Aimee ♥ | Aimee, Always I've been seeing this one on tons of wishlists and have now added it to my own! And I saw in a comment that you mentioned gory torture scenes... I must read this when it comes out!


Emily May Yay! I look forward to hearing what you think :)


message 34: by Arthur (new) - added it

Arthur This book will be released March 4, 2014 in the US. Is there a Brittish term I could search for in the book, to see if it had been Americanized?

I might have to order a hardback from overseas, if it is!


message 35: by Beatrix (new) - added it

Beatrix Lovely review Emily, now I'm very curious about this book.

Could you recommend any other good British YA?
With that special English/Scottish/Welsh atmosphere you were talking about? :)


message 36: by Trajche (new) - added it

Trajche thank to your review, not i NEED to read this book. I just need it in my life. I just love it when you do this to me :D


Scotty Beatrix, some great UK authors to look out for are Kevin Brooks (I- boy, Being and Bunker Diaries), Sally Nicholls (Close your pretty eyes, and All fall down), Lyndsey Barraclough (long Lankin), Ruth Warburton(Witch..), Kate Cann ( Fire & Rain), Catherine Forde, Kirsty Mckay ( tongue in cheek zombies!), Melvin Burgess, Marcus Sedgwick, Sophie Mckenzie, Phil Earle, Alistair McGowan (Henry Tumour- excruciating, cringing teenage boy humour but laugh out loud til you cry humour and a shocking end) , where do I stop?!


Scotty Also Rachel Ward ( Numbers series), Moira Young - Blood red road and its sequel Rebel Heart


message 39: by Beatrix (new) - added it

Beatrix Thank you Scotty, for so many titles. I'll sure check them out!


message 40: by Julia (new)

Julia I love your reviews. I almost always agree with them. Actually, I do always agree. I have added this to be read.


Emily May Julia wrote: "I love your reviews. I almost always agree with them. Actually, I do always agree. I have added this to be read."

Thanks, Julia :) I hope you like it!


Emily May Beatrix wrote: "Thank you Scotty, for so many titles. I'll sure check them out!"

I especially second Marcus Sedgwick. I think he is one of the most underrated authors writing YA.


Scotty Re: Marcus Sedgwick, have you read his latest book She is not invisible, Emily May? It's a bit different from his other titles but I love it, it's my favourite so far! I'm less keen on some of his fantasy genre ones, but he can certainly write an impressive range of styles, all well done.


Scotty Oh, keep thinking of more good UK authors, one of the best YA books from last year was Silent Saturday by Helen Grant: also loved her earlier novels The vanishing of Katherina Linden, and The glass demon. She sets her novels mainly in Germany though, not the UK, and they have a claustrophibic, small town sense of place, and atmospheric use of references to folk tale/fairy story traditions and gothic suspense.
Creepy, and masterful story telling!


Scotty ...and Jenny Valentine's The double life of Cassiel Roadnight, a gripping thriller based on Josephine Tey's classic Brat Farrar. Also liked Valentine's The ant colony.

Another to look out for is Paul Dowswell who writes incredibly well researched war stories like Auslander.


Liz This book blew my mind. It was so good. There were some niggling little problems, but I wasn't bothered by them.


Emily May Thank you, Aditi! I hope so too :)


kenzie I cant wait to read this now! :)


message 49: by Megan (new)

Megan Thanks for the great review. I was on the fence about this one.


Emily May No problem, Megan! I hope you like it :)


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