Title: Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1)
Author: Sally Green
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Fantasy
Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
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. (Goodreads 2014)
Half Bad is the first in a new trilogy, which follows a young boy named Nathan, who is soon to turn 17 and receive his Gifts. The only problem is, he is a Half-Code, meaning he is half black witch and half white witch. The problem here is that White Witches are esteemed and celebrated, Black Witches are tracked down, captured, tortured for a month and then killed, by white witches- for the “protection” of white witches. Nathan has the daunting task of choosing which side he is on, but also making his dangerous society believe he is on the right side, or in this case, the “White” side, which is harder to do when your father is the most known violent Black witch of all time.
One of the most tricky parts about this book however was the writing by Green. The perspective changes throughout this book, from second person to first person and back again, so it got a little bit confusing when I first saw it switch. If you can relax and enjoy it for what it is, then you’ll progress through this book fine, get wrapped up in the story, care about the characters and actually want to know what the hell is going to happen- if you struggle with narration changing perspectives, then you might struggle with this book and therefore not like it so much. Personally, I found this idea of writing refreshing. I’ve not read a book in a good while where the narration switches like that and I consider it to be quite a ballsy move by the author, as it could put a lot of readers off the book- but to me, it just made it stand out.
However, just because Nathan isn’t 100% Black witch, does not mean he does not suffer. This book is full of Nathan enduring torture and trials by the society around him. Constantly being watched and restricted by the council, being attacked and scarred with knives by White witches, who appear to be more violent than the Black witches, ironically- and being treated like an animal and locked up in a cage with a band of poison around his wrist to stop him from running away. Through it all the motivation which keeps Nathan going is the motivation to finally find and see his father, Marcus, for the first time.
Personally as well, I felt it was nice to read a book by an English author set in England. Actually, I believe this story is set in my own city, as it makes a few appearances in the book, and as someone who has taken a fair few day trips to Wales, it was nice to see Wales appear in fiction as well, which I think has only happened to me once before. It sounds daft but when you read so many books which are all set in America, a place where you have no idea about the geography or the atmosphere of, it’s nice to read something a little familiar.
A few reviews have highlighted that the Black/White witch society represents issues of racism in our own society, but again, personally- there is a long standing culture in England that there were “Black” and “White” witches, and there was a clear representation of who was “evil” and who was “good”, regardless of their skin colour. I did think about the idea of that representation a couple of times throughout the book as it is not entirely untrue/unfounded, but I decided to believe that it was nothing more than traditional culture around the ideas of “witchcraft”. I did love that this book raises the issue of “Nature vs Nurture” and helps to argue the idea that your lineage does not define who you are- you are your own person and you can freely decide how you are going to behave, act and live your life. I think more books could do with pushing this message across. Especially with so many negative stereotypes about “Youths” in the media pushing the idea that they are all thugs.
I found that the last 70 pages of the book or so slowed down quite a bit, and I did struggle a tiny bit to finish this book but that, I believe was mainly because I’d just gotten home from a shift in work and was knackered. The pace did change but the build up to events was worth it and I can’t wait for the second book in the series.
I enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it.