Half Bad by Sally Green

Posted 19 March, 2014 by Danny in Blog, Danny, Danny's Book Review / 9 Comments

Half Bad by Sally GreenHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half-Life Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin on 2014-03-04
Genres: Boys & Men, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
4 Stars

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-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 seventeenth 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?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

When I heard about this story I thought about a great paranormal story with Witches and a Boy’s POV, which is always something that draws me in as it is so rare in Young Adult. I realized however soon that this story has much to offer than a simple book you read simply for pleasure.

Beaten, Tortured and Cast Out – Just because of your genes…

We find ourselves in a more or less Contemporary setting, yet with a world of witches living hidden among us. Sounds like many other setting too, which is why I didn’t complain too much about the lack of world building, it was also not really needed to tell Nathan’s story!

Nathan is a half blood, part white (good) part black (bad) witch and everyone hates, fears and oppresses these halfblooded witches. The story starts with Nathan being a little child and we follow him while he grows up among people whoeither hate or fear him. He’s an outcast, even within his family and siblings. There is only his Grandma and older brother who treat him as a real boy and do not only see where he comes from. 

Nathans story will bring you to tears. It will leave you gasping and it will make you eyes widen with horror. What this boy has to endure is truly terrible and horrific. He’s not only ignored by his peers, but often also tortured to a point where the cruelty reminds of horror stories. It gets even worse when he’s send to a special witch who is supposed to supervise and train him.

There Nathan is completely alone and cut off from his family, but also trained with a brutality that made my heart ache.

Unique Narrative!

What makes this story so unique, is the way it’s written and the way Nathan tells us his story. Most of the times, the story is told in first person narrative which captures beautifully Nathans personality. However, I must also admit that I sometimes felt a little detached from the story. But Nathan is a very complex boy, being constantly tortured and left with so little love, he simply developed differently and I feel like he himself was often emotionally detached. So in this sense the writing was simply brilliant!

A few times the narrative even switches to Second Person, especially when Nathan had to endure terrible moments in his life. I actually thought a lot about the purpose of this switch in narration and believe there are many reasons why the author chose this. I personally felt more involved, completely drawn into this situations and it left me shivering in horror.

The pacing is a little off sometimes. The beginning is a little slow and it took  me some time to get used of the narrative and the pacing. It takes up towards the middle and then rashes towards the end.

The Sweet and The Good Things!

Certainly, such a dark story needs some hope and thankfully we are offered this in form of some wonderful people Nathan meets. One outstandingly special person is his half-brother who is such a soft and wonderful boy who loves Nathan for who he really is. I think it was because of him that Nathan went not completely mad already as a young kid. And then there is a girl Nathan falls for when he’s super young, but this love stays in his heart and makes him endure even in moments when I though he would break now.

But the character that made the biggest impression was Gabriel who he meets on his quest to find his father and  the three gifts that will make him a full witch. Gabriel is wonderful with his sometimes cherrie attitude. He shows Nathan that there is more in the world than darkness, than black and white and that there are people who will judge you for who you are.


Bewitched Rating


Bottom Line

Half Bad by Sally Green is a brilliant debut with an incredible deep story about acceptance and racism, wrapped in a delightful magical setting. Nathans story left a deep impact on me and won’t leave readers easily after reaching the last page. Due to its often gruesome scenes I wouldn’t recommend this book for younger readers and I rather think that this is a book for all ages.



Wow.. I realized just now how big my review became. And.. I wasn’t even able to say everything I wanted to say about this story. So I hope I did this book justice.

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9 Responses to “Half Bad by Sally Green”

  1. THis seems like a really different sort of book. Nathan sounds like a complex and potentially tragic character. I’m not sure how the perspective shifts between first and second person will sit with me. I guess you never know until you try!
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  2. So glad you ended up enjoying this one Danny, I know you were nervous after we talked a little bit about it. I adored Nathan’s relationship with his brother as well, it was my favorite part of the book. I’m hoping for lots more Gabriel in the second book because I was a huge fan of him too, and I’m secretly wishing for things to flow in his direction romance-wise:)

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  3. Yep, you did a good job. You have me feeling more positive about reading this one. I have it to read and I was hoping I didn’t waste my book money on it. Seems like it is totally different from what I was expecting- a bad ass witch story. Guess I didn’t really read the blurb that well. But between you and Jenny I’m glad I have it to read.
    Great review!!

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  4. This sounds like a great story. Sometimes it is hard to watch characters struggle but it sounds like there were a few light spots in the book to make up for the darker setting.

    Thanks for the great review!

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