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Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication date: 3/4/2014
Age range: 12 – 17 Years
I borrowed this book from my local library
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet
This is a book I picked up because of all the buzz, and because I happened to walk in the library when they were putting the latest books on the shelf! The buzz was neither good nor bad, just buzz. Is it the next big thing? Is it any good? How much of an advance did Sally green receive? Are witches making a comeback? To be honest, by the time it came out I’d forgotten about the witches part. I opened the cover having no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t even read the blurb. The only expectation I had was that the buzz was all hype.
The opening pages didn’t immediately alleviate my apprehension. Second person? Who writes in second person? And was the whole novel going to be like this? I think I can tell you without spoiling anything that there are only two short second person POV portions of the novel. I’ve heard a few of my fellow readers indicate they found these parts strange and hard to follow. While I didn’t love it, after I got past the oddness, I was engaged. I believe Green’s purpose was to bring the reader into the story on a more personal level during some traumatic periods, and for me it was effective.
HALF BAD was split into six sections with several chapters in each section. The chapter titles gave clear focus and direction, hinting to the reader what would happen without ruining the suspense. It focused on the lives of black and white witches living in Europe, never straying into Harry Potter territory. The world was both fully developed and realized, drawing the reader in so that you don’t even think about those other witches at Hogwarts. In fact, HALF BAD was a dark, brooding, punishing read full of edgy content, intriguing characters and a plot that kept me riveted from beginning to end.
The MC, Nathan, was one of those characters who has had a rough life, yet there were some glimmers of good. I think it is essential to give a character who has suffered a lot some redeeming points in their story, or you wonder how they managed to come through all the trauma unscathed. Nathan is sarcastic, brooding, has a huge chip on his shoulders, and makes bad choices and pays for them, but you never find yourself wondering “Why did he do that?” You know why. Green does a fantastic job of putting us in Nathan’s head, making us feel what he feels and think what he thinks. Even when he’s being stupid, you root for him to get out alive. For some reason I picture him as Sebastian Stan In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Nathan is only seventeen, so I guess age this picture down a bit and then you’ll have my vision! 🙂
Nathan’s love interest, Annalise, is unfortunately pretty bland. She has very little character and only serves to show that there are some decent people among the white witches. I’m hopeful her character become more developed in sequels, or Nathan finds someone more worthy of his attentions. This is how I saw Annalise: (no insult meant to Elle Fanning)
My only other complaint is something I didn’t really think about until after I’d read the book, started my review and talked to a few other readers online. Once the point was brought up, it did seem like a small drawback. The opening Hamlet line is carried through the novel and Green expertly portrays the idea that just because you are white or black (talking about witches, not skin color) doesn’t predetermine if you are good or bad. It is your choices that make you who you are and doing bad things in the cause of good is still bad. The problem here is that Green made almost all of the white witches bad, and really bad. Like torture-kidnap-kill-mutilate bad. They’re some scary people. Even though it was fiction, I was fearful for the characters and all they might suffer at the hands of these people. I think Green could have given us a few more good white witches, not just witches who think they’re good but are really some of the most awful creatures on the planet. And she never really gives us a reason why the white witches are ruthlessly hunting down every black witch in existence, other than “they are just bad.” I get the discrimination angle, but I could have used more of a back story as to why the with world is like this.
Overall I loved this book! The MC and a few supporting characters are well thought out, deep and intriguing with back stories I want to know more about. Many of the “bad guys” (white witches) were too bad for no reason, though it was still highly plausible. I can not wait to read the rest of the trilogy. The writing was very good, which I don’t always find in every YA. This is an example of taking a great story with a great writer and marketing it to be successful. As opposed to some novels that have a great story with only okay writing that get the same marketing push. YA readers are as sophisticated as any other age group and deserve quality literature as much as their adult counterparts.
My review: 4/5 stars
Picture of Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier borrowed from: http://screenrant.com/captain-america-2-set-visit-sebastian-stan-future/
Picture of Elle Fanning as Aurora borrowed from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2544962/BAZ-BAMIGBOYE-Nail-biting-time-polished-Elle-Fanning-Young-Ones.html