Sally Green – Half Bad

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Wanted by no one.
Hunted by everyone.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.

Nathan is labeled as a half code, half White Witch and half Black Witch. Marcus, his dad, has killed many people and came from a long line of evil Black Witches. He kind of reminds of Voldemort, especially when the characters are like “I can’t even say his name aloud.” Anyhow, Nathan grows up with his White Witch family but despite being under their tutelage, the Council of the White Witches think he’s going to grow up being destructive like his father and try to bend him to his wills. Seriously, this guy gets no breaks.

What I liked:

– Enjoyable writing style.
The book really grabs your attention from the beginning with its use of second person point of view, which I have never had the priviledge to read until now. It kind of feels like a video game, and you get really immersed in the story when it feels like you, as the reader, are doing the things.
“It’s warm today, a breeze from the southwest, clouds moving silently across the sky so the sun is managing a series of appearances, touching your cheek and casting shadows from the bars across your legs.” 
The only problem I have with it was that it only went on for a couple of chapters. Then the book switches to the first persion view of Nathan. After the writing switched, I was a little bummed. It’s like the second person POV didn’t really do anything except lure the readers in, and that was only a trick because the rest of the book is in first person.
I feel like some people may not like the writing style in general. The sentences are short and can be dramatic. Phrases are repeated for emphasis and although I’m a fan of that kind of choppy writing, I can see people getting annoyed at it. Overall, it makes the book pretty easy to read and get through.

– Some amazing characters.
Notably Arran, Nathan’s half brother, and Gabriel, a Black Witch who helps Nathan along on his journey.
Arran is always on Nathan’s side, and as you read Nathan’s life from childhood to seventeen years old, you can really tell that Arran cares about his brother. It was so sweet, and really struck through me. While the rest of the White Witch community condemned Nathan for him being a half code, his family (excluding Jessica) stood next to him; Arran most of all.
“Arran’s hand locked on mine. My back is hot inside but cool on the outside.
Arran askes quietly, ‘Nathan?’
‘Stay with me, Arran.'”
What’s interesting about Gabriel is that he is one of the possible love interests, as we find out that he likes Nathan. Gabriel is a Black Witch that helps Nathan out while he’s trying to obtain his three gifts. Gabriel really has Nathan’s best interests at heart, and is so protective of him. Nathan doesn’t give any hints that he is homosexual though, as he already has an infatuation with some cardboard female character. I’d like to see how this relationship progresses and how Nathan deals with Gabriel and his own feelings, though. (And I’m totally Team Gabriel, no matter how unlikely it seems.)

– Nathan’s really depressing life and inner turmoil.
Alright this sounds pretty harsh, but life is not easy for this boy. He gets bullied at home by his mother and half sister Jessica growing up. He gets bullied at school by the White Witches that also go there. The Council of White Witches are really up his ass, and they always post these restrictive rules on Nathan and spies on him. In the end though, it contributes in making Nathan wonder what really is good and bad. He’s grown up on the “White Witch = good, Black Witch = bad” mentality, but it doesn’t seem like the Council is making life particularly good for him.
“‘I‘ve been kept in a cage for nearly two years. I’ve been beaten and tortured and kept from my family, my family of White Witches. Tell me which bit of that is good.'”
Ouch. No wonder Nathan has trust issues.
In the midst of all this, Nathan is still conflicted over which side of him he should embrace: the Black Witch side that gives him his powers and looks, or the White Witch side he grew up under. It’s a nature v. nurture dilemma for him, and there’s not a lot of choices to choose from.
“‘And the physical stuff, the genes, your Gift, they are not what makes a Black Witch. You have to believe that. It’s how you think and how you behave that shows who you are. You aren’t evil, Nathan. Nothing about you is evil. You will have a powerful Gift – we can all see that – but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.'”

What I didn’t like:

– Undeveloped world building.
Hmm, this was quite a turn off. I spent a big part of the beginning trying to figure out what kind of world the book took place in. We had elements of magic, with Witches and all, but there was also normal people. Then it turns out that the normal people don’t know about the Witches and all of this is happening in the United Kingdom. Okay, so is this in the past or future or what? From the technology introduced, with cars, tellies, and phones, it seems like the present. Glad we got that figured out.
But then – why are the Black Witches so bad again? It seems like the only really bad guy is Marcus. Other than that, we don’t see much of Black Witches in general, and not much is explained about why the White Witches hunt them down and kill them. So yeahhh there wasn’t a lot of background on this stuff other than stuff that Nathan learns about his father.

– Lame love interest #1.
Meet Annalise, our potential love interest for the main character. Was this girl supposed to be like a foil to Nathan? She is a pure White Witch whose family is very influential in the Council. The only good thing she’s done to Nathan is lead him on, compliment his art, and… uh yeah. That’s it. Unless you count getting him tortured something good.
Nathan is thinking about her throughout the book, even when he’s kept in a cage and all. But… what the fuck was Annalise doing? Not using her family’s influence to help him, that’s what. She can’t stand up to her brothers, and when she attempts to, she runs away because she’s too weak and ends up getting help from Nathan. What the hell woman?! She’s wimpy, nice, has “white chocolate hair,” and does not help our main character in any way. I’m not even sure why he likes her.

– Lack of magic despite the characters being Witches.
Yo this is the a battle against good and evil, and how much magic do we get?? Like, <10%, that’s how much. Let’s take a look at what we do get:
~ Invisible people.
~ Potion making.
~ Slowing time.
~ Transforming into other people/things.
~ Really loud noises that give you headaches.
… um…? That’s it??
And what’s more, a lot of the other magical elements are a bunch of mentionings that are we never get to see. Hopefully the second book follows up with all the telling that the first book never showed. Just for that hope (and Gabrielle x Nathan), I’m reading the second book when it comes out.

Recommended for:
Fans of main characters that are not 100% good. Characters who go through a shit ton of crap throughout their lives and end up having to decide whether they’re going to the dark side or not.
Also if you like magic and don’t mind not having a lot in the book itself.

Rating: 3.5/5

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2 thoughts on “Sally Green – Half Bad

  1. Olivia says:

    Hmm, I have seen a lot of things about this book around, so it is on my TBR because I want to see what everyone is buzzing about. But it looks like you really loved some elements and didn’t like some others. I am a character driven reader, so good characters sounds like a huge plus for me! But then at the same time, I find world building to be important, and it doesn’t seem like that is developed enough.

    • sourbamboo says:

      Well, I thought the setting needed work but if you don’t MIND the world-building to lack a little, definitely try this book! I feel like if you concentrate more on the character rather than thinking about the different witches and powers, you’ll have no qualms reading the book!

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