Half Bad by Sally Green
Summary: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.
As someone who is not typically a fan of stories about witches and warlocks or magic in general, Half Bad by Sally Green came as a pleasant surprise to me, and I wound up really enjoying it.
Any YA book regarding witches has quite big shoes to fill, with comparisons to the Harry Potter series impossible to ignore. But I found Half Bad to be surprisingly original, which was something commendable. Sure, there are some minor similarities between the two, but that’s certainly unavoidable considering they’re about the same topic; but for the most part I found Half Bad to be something fresh and original, which was certainly nice.
Nathan is the child of the most evil Witch to ever live. Throughout his life, he has been subjected to endless torture –
He puts the point back into my left shoulder blade and I clench my jaw and scream while he makes another cut.
He stops again and says, “You should have listened to him.”
He makes another slow cut.
And I am going mad screaming and praying for someone to make him stop.
But he makes another cut and then another and all I can do is scream and pray.
– and prejudice because of his father. Pain and torture are virtually the only emotions Nathan knows. As a reader, you’re immediately drawn into the story, and can’t help but feel bad for Nathan. All this torture and prejudice for…simply having a father when he clearly is nothing like him? It’s truly heart-breaking, and Sally Green doesn’t hold back on some graphic torture scenes that are sure to make you sympathize for Nathan.
What started out as an intriguing read – was horrible witnessing everything Nathan had to go through – soon became something boring and repetitive, with a plot that felt like it went in complete circles with no obvious direction. The first 60% was well-done and highly emotion-provoking (Nathan being subjected to torture), but the last 40% made it feel like the same thing was happening over and over again, just in different forms.
Basically it went like this:
- Nathan goes to Person A, who redirects him to Person B.
- Nathan goes to Person B, who redirects him to Person C.
- Nathan goes to Person C, who tells him a secret. Nathan gets extremely excited, thinking this secret will help him and that he’s finally got a way to meet his father.
- Nathan is so excited about finding out this secret that he disregards that every single person in the magical world is looking for him. Literally. And he gets caught by the Order of White Witches – his worst enemy.
- Someone manages to sneak Nathan out safely, without a trace.
Repeat steps 1 – 5 again until it makes up a 300 – page book.
There’s only so much a reader can take before they realize that there is no obvious plot progression, and the story in turn becomes more of a drag than specific entertainment value.
Character-wise, I was never quite able to connect with all the characters. They were well-developed, but I never felt that Sally Green went “above and beyond” developing them.
Nathan was certainly a relatable and sympathetic protagonist, and I enjoyed his quick wit, his determination, and his sarcastic, dry sense of humor. Even though he isn’t exactly “book smart,” he shows intelligence in many different areas, and I found that to be really unique. Nathan is simply a normal witch, he has no hidden gifts, no hidden destiny, and yet he proves to be extraordinary, and I have a feeling many readers – myself included – will absolutely love that.
As for the supporting characters, they fell a tad flat for me. I found it quite difficult to connect to them, maybe because they were underdeveloped just a tad. Most supporting characters in Half Bad simply had definitive qualities – the evil villain; the perfect, flawless love interest; the bullies; etc, but they never really had personalities or backstories or depth of any kind, and that was disappointing.
Would I recommend it? Not as much as some other books, but, yes, absolutely.
Is it one of my all-time favorite reads? No, not by a long shot, but it is enjoyable and well-written nonetheless; with some grueling torture scenes and a main character whom you can’t help but feel sorry for.