Published globally 3rd March 2014 by Penguin
Book 1 in the Half Life trilogy
(Please note that this book was sent to me for review by Bloomsbury, however, this does not in any way affect my final opinion or rating on the book. Everything mentioned in this review is completely of my own opinion.)
*Spoiler Free Review*
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?
I first heard of this novel through watching a fellow book-tuber's video. As soon as I seen the cover and heard the plot I knew I had to get my hands on it so I managed to hunt down an email for a publicist at Penguin and she said she'd send me a review copy - to say I squealed is an understatement.
Half Bad was fantastic. The novel follows Nathan - a young witch, the only existent offspring of a White Witch mother and a Black Witch father, the good and the bad respectively - who is pretty much entirely hated by the world because of the lack of knowledge around his mixed race. The only people who actually care for him are his Gran and all but one of his siblings.We follow Nathan on his journey through his young life, including snippets of his school life and his life at home and how he deals with the hatred people show towards him. When Nathan comes of age, like any other witch, he must receive 3 gifts - preferably from his father, whose location is unknown - in order to come into his own as a full fledged Witch.
Nathan was an incredible character. He was impressive and inspiring in the sense that know matter how tough life got, he knew he had to push through and rise above all of the hatred and insecurity people felt towards him. Whether this was the author's intention or not I definitely felt like this was great symbolism for bullying, it shows that no matter how people treat you, if you're brave and push through, you'll come out the much better person for it - this is a message that needs to be heard a lot more often and this book and Nathan's character do a great job of sharing this experience with the reader. One of my favorite aspects of this book was that we got to witness Nathan growing from a child to a young adult, it really allowed me as a reader to connect with his character and really understand why he had the opinions he had and how he dealt with the constant negativity the world seemed to force upon him. When the world threw its worst and most devastating cards on the table, Nathan knew exactly how to pick himself up and move on with life and his journey.
Randomly throughout this book - as a part of the story - Nathan and his family receives "Notifications" (pretty much the equivalent to a law) from the Council (pretty much the equivalent to a government). Each Notification is a statement advising the population of new rules/laws that are being released and each one we read during the course of this novel is targeted directly at the only Black&White Witch in existence - Nathan. They are typically announcing how people must treat Nathan and how people should avoid him and make as little interaction with him as possible etc. I definitely feel like this played a colossal part in the book, with each Notification that was released it really felt like the world was closing in and becoming smaller and smaller on Nathan and he had less and less freedom as time went on. However, along with that I also felt like each Notification almost signified the Council's fear of Nathan and how they were afraid of how little they knew about what he may or may not be able to do when/if he becomes a full Witch. This was another aspect of the novel that really shone and stood out for me and I found myself looking forward to discovering what Notifications they were going to release against Nathan next.
Sally Green is an outstanding author. Half Bad is her debut novel and it's not enough to say that I adored her writing and I know that even when this trilogy ends I will be eagerly anticipating Sally's new ventures and works. Something about Sally's writing just had me consistently intrigued and excited and I never knew where she was going to go with the story, she kept everything so well hidden and yet she managed to reveal just enough to make you want to continue and enjoy the novel. A couple of times in the book Sally even writes in 2nd person, which really blew me away. She only done this for a few pages at a time but it was really fascinating and definitely a new experience for me - one that proved to be extremely entertaining, it really made me feel like I was involved in the story, like I was there, right where a character in the book should be.
I'd absolutely love to talk all day about this book but I'm worried that if I were to continue I may end up spoiling something. In my opinion, a large part of this novel is reading it and discovering everything for the first time as you read it and realising just how difficult it is for Nathan to do something as simple as existing and leading a life. If I were to spoil that experience for a single person, I would regret this review immensely.
Overall, it's not enough to say that I adored Half Bad. As one of my most anticipated reads of the year it has not let itself down in the slightest. I'm looking forward to continuing this trilogy in the future and can't wait to uncover more of what Nathan's future holds. A fantastic novel set in a world much like our own that explores varying topics and creates a character and story that we want to hold close to our hearts long after we turn the final page.
5 out of 5 stars
*Side Note: Just a little something I took out of the review above and still really wanted to mention; don't go into this book solely on the idea that it's got Witches and magic, because this book is much more than that. In fact, although the novel touches on the subject, I feel like the Witches and magic aspect of this novel plays a small part in the overall greatness of the story. However I definitely think that the Witchery and magic will come to be a much larger part of the story in the second and third books in the trilogy.