Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Genre: YA fantasy/paranormal
Length: 394 pages
Published by: Penguin
Source: Won from Shaheen @ Speculating on Spec Fic (THANKS SHAHEEN!!)
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.
Get it, because there are 394 pages in this book? Yes?
I’ll be quiet now.
I was very scared I would not like this book.
There was SO MUCH hype for it, both negative and positive, and I was like, “I HAVE TO KNOW WHETHER I WILL LIKE THIS BOOK.” Because you get curious, you know? You start wondering what your own reaction will be like. It’s like the ultimate tension.
And you’re reading the first few pages, and those first few pages ALREADY tell you if you’re going to like it, and you’re worried you won’t, and basically it’s like this:
BUT I LIKED IT.
Haaaaallelujah. Haaaaaaallelujah. Isn’t it great when that happens? This is certainly not my type of book, usually. I read contemporary YA. I am contemporary YA’s biggest fan. I don’t go in for the torture or the witches or the cages, usually. I mean, not that that particular combination occurs that often. But hey, so many people recommended this, and then I won it, and I was SO intrigued.
So let’s make a list. Yes? Lists are good. We like lists.
1) Writing style = awesome
There were lots of really short chapters (I like short chapters because they correspond to my attention span as well as my height, ie also short). And lots of things that weren’t traditional ways to write a story in. That didn’t make much sense. But just know that this story is told in a way that is brilliantly unique and raw and with incredible voice. However, some of these unique features did drop away once we got into the novel.
For example, at the start we had different kinds of tense and POV – there was second person present tense, and then first person, and it was all very interesting. This didn’t stick through the whole thing, though, which was a shame.
2) Nathan. Poor, dear Nathan.
Nathan’s voice absolutely ROCKED. Dear Nathan…
He is tortured and teased and scarred and belittled and made to feel like an awful person, when in reality, NONE OF THIS IS HIS FAULT. It’s not his fault he’s half Black Witch. There are some scenes in this book that are actually pretty gruesome. Well, for my standards. I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to torture and such. So anyway, Nathan is a fantastic narrator – scared and brave at the same time, naive and a bit brainwashed by thoughts of his father, and ohhhhh was it heart-breaking.
3) Despite what you might think, it’s not all black and white.
We have White Witches and Black Witches. Supposedly, the white ones are the “good guys” while the Black White are persecuted and discriminated against. What I love about speculative fiction is when it does things like this – when it makes me think of our own world and the inequalities here. But not all White Witches were good in the novel, and not all Black Witches were bad. It’s COMPLEX. There’s no good and evil, only degrees of both. Take Celia, for example – the one who is keeping Nathan imprisoned. Sure, it’s awful what she’s doing, but then there are these sections when it almost seems logical. And Sally Green is an amazing writer for being able to do that.
So those are the three main things I liked.
There was also one main thing I DIDN’T like.
At some parts it was really really fast, but then other parts I was like…okay, is something going to happen now or what?
But apart from that, Half Bad is a terrifying speculation with incredible voice and complex characters.
Plus, look at this! The Australian editions have both front and back covers. Except instead of silver it’s white. And it’s matte so it feels absolutely lovely. Gosh I love book covers.
And if we’re lucky we’ll get two for Half Wild…