Review: Half Bad by Sally Green + Giveaway

6 March, 2014 Giveaways, Reviews 43 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Half Bad by Sally Green + GiveawayHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Life Trilogy #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 4th 2014
Pages: 416
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

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?

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 first picked this book up from BEA, I wasn’t very interested because I saw the word “witches” and thought, “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE.” Even in my review policy it states that I don’t review books about witches. Why? Well, because of Harry Potter. I didn’t want to sit and compare the two and I had a feeling that I would. What made matters worse was the fact that ended up being toted as The Next Big Thing from The Hunger Games to, you guessed it, Harry Potter. So it’s a good thing this book was nothing like Harry Potter.

Upon finishing Half Bad my first thought was, “HOLY SHIT!”, so I went to Goodreads to see what everyone else thought. It’s interesting to see how split most people are on this book, and it’s not hard to understand why. The enjoyment of Half Bad is going to largely depend on your ability to adapt to the writing style. How do you feel about second person? How do you feel about first person? How do you feel about flipping back and forth from those two different point-of-views? If you answer is, “I can dig it!” then let’s roll through the meadows together as I wax poetic about how awesome this book was. But if you answer is, “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it,” then Half Bad might not be your cup of tea and I’ve got only one thing to say to you:

Good day sir

Half Bad is brutal and spares no punches as we are introduced to the main character, who lives in a cage. A cage. Immediately my interest was piqued. I knew this was a good sign for me because I’m the kind of reader that struggles with most book beginnings. However, the perils that Nathan endures really horrified me, and as terrible as it sounds, I couldn’t stop reading about it.  There’s nothing bright and sunny about Half Bad and the majority of it involves Nathan being ridiculed or tortured from a very young age because his father is the most hunted black witch. And so Nathan grows up alone in the community of white witches who despise him. He desperately wants to be accepted and not judged purely on his parentage, but no matter how hard he tries, the Council of White Witches continue to send restrictions:

  • Any contact Nathan has with a white witch has to be reported
  • He goes to the council for yearly assessments, where he is questioned about the father he’s never met
  • He can’t have his Giving Ceremony with out permission (Think: Rite of Passage for Witches)
  • He can’t travel anywhere without first having permission

It gets pretty ridiculous with the amount of rules place on a child, but the Council has their prejudices, and it’s clear they don’t plan to let up. Nathan, who’s only freedom included traveling to Wales every once in a while, refuses to ask permission for travel. Yet, his half-brother (a white witch), who genuinely cares about him, begs him to reconsider. That scene was one of the saddest in the book for me.

Later that night, when I am getting undressed, Arran has a go at talking to me. I guess Gran has asked him to try. He says I should “rethink,” “perhaps ask permission to go to one place in Wales,” and some other stuff like that. Adult stuff. Gran’s stuff.
I just say, “Can I have permission to go to the bathroom? Please?”
He doesn’t reply, so I throw my jeans on the floor, get on my knees and say, “Can I have permission to go to the bathroom? Please?”
He doesn’t reply but drops to his knees with me and hugs me. We stay like that. Him hugging me and me still stiff with anger at him, wanting to hurt him too.
After a long time I hug him back, just a little.

But somehow in all the abuse, Nathan finds a little happiness in a girl named Annalise. Their romance was both short and sweet, and inevitably would fail since it’s forbidden for white witches to fraternize with black witches. (I want to take the time to point out that this is NOT a Paranormal Romance.) Sometime later, he ends up living in a cage outside.

The writing, as I mentioned before, flips back and forth from second to first person in the beginning, but tapers off and settles on first person present tense. I personally loved it because it’s so different from other books. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with second person that wasn’t a Choose Your Own Adventure. I felt like I could really get into Nathan’s mind and understand how he felt. It also made certain scenes more intense because it forces the reader to imagine themselves in his situation. So imagining my hand being burned off from acid wasn’t fun, but different.

Kat and I happened to be reading this book at the same time and had similar thoughts about it being difficult to read at first. It was very depressing in the beginning to see a child being mistreated and tortured. I don’t often encounter that in most of the YA novels that I’ve read. But it does remind me of the same feelings I felt while reading The Hunger Games in that respect. The scenes don’t fade into black, Nathan screams throughout some of them and they just felt very visual and hard to process at times. I’m not a reader of horror novels nor a watcher of scary movies that have a lot of violence, so my tolerance level for this might be low. However, I do think those scenes are where Green truly shined. Plus, they’ll make for a great movie.

When I went through and read a few reviews, some mentioned the implications of race since Nathan is a black witch being persecuted by white witches. It’s interesting because I never really thought about it that way. Looking back, I suppose it is there. The black witches and white witches are different races in a way, but I viewed it more playing on the long accepted mythology that black witches were evil and white witches good and simply putting another spin on it. In any case, I wasn’t offended by anything intentional or unintentional.

Strangely enough, even though Half Bad is about witches, there’s not much magic in it. There are a few instances where there are spells mentioned and used, but the vast majority boils down to witches making potions. There are no wands or cloaks or three-quarter platforms. I think this was smart, otherwise, would we see a lot of comparisons between Half Bad and Harry Potter floating around. As far as I can tell, they don’t have anything in common besides the same paranormal creature.

As much as I loved the narrative and premise, I do agree with other reviewers that mention the second half isn’t as strong as the first. This might have something to do with how violent the first half is, and therefore, a lot more engaging to read. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but the first half is definitely more interesting. However, I still enjoyed the second half because if the book had been filled entirely of violent torture, I don’t think I could have continued reading. The second half mostly involves Nathan, newly escaped from the Council, searching for a black witch named Mercury who can give him his three gifts on his 17th birthday.

The ending took me by surprise due to the reappearance from a certain character. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I am eager to continue this series. Do I think it’s the Next Big Thing? Who knows. But it’s a damn good book.

Have you read Half Bad yet? What did you think?



PenguinTeen is kindly offering up a finished copy of Half Bad to one winner!

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Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

43 Responses to “Review: Half Bad by Sally Green + Giveaway”

  1. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)


    Yeah, no. I will take nothing, rather that headache.

    I mean, YAY for everyone who’s able to enjoy it, because apparently if the writing style meshes with your brain, it’s AMAZING. I wish I could be a that person. But second person hurts us, precious.

    Hmmm, it generally doesn’t sound like a me book, but yay for you. I will just hug me some Eleanor & Park. :-p
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Audiobook Review: WakeMy Profile

    • Steph Sinclair

      I think it was only there twice in the entire book. You read up to page 70-something, right? You may have already passed both parts.

      I hear someone is supposed to be writing a book that’s entirely in second person. I think it might be Anna Carey, but I can’t remember. Anyway, I’ll be sure to throw that in your Sadie Hawkins slush pile.

    • Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

      Well, All the Truth That’s in Me was in second person and I did manage to enjoy that one. But I HATED the second person bits in The Archived. At 70-something, there was still just the first 25 pages, I think.

      You are a cruel person. 😉 I’ll have to see what I can find for your recommendation thingamabob.

  2. Christina R.

    I’d love to read it because it’s nothing like Harry Potter! I love Harry Potter so much, that witches have to be done entirely differently.

    I like that the witch culture is entirely different 🙂

    Thank you 🙂

    • Steph Sinclair

      I was so happy that it was completely different from Harry Potter. I honestly think the whole witch premise could have been removed and it’d be an equally compelling story for me. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Nikki


    Omg, FINALLY another person who loved this book. I feel like us Half Bad fans gotta stick together!! I’ve been reading so many negative reviews for it, and my opinion was starting to be swayed a little bit. Everyone who disliked it made some really valid points about the second half which, while I wasn’t terribly affected by the change in pace/tone, started to make me think I’d just been blinded by how much I loved the first half.

    And I’m definitely one of those people who loved the second person sections — to my immense surprise. I hope there’s more of that super-connected, first-half feeling in book 2, because that’s definitely where Green excels.
    Nikki recently posted…Book Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs WallerMy Profile

    • Steph Sinclair

      Yay! *dances in a circle with you*

      I enjoyed the change because the beginning was so shockingly violent, it sort of needed a mellow part. Though, I do get why some didn’t love the second half since it is a very noticeable change, from one extreme to the next.

      I agree! I hope there’s more in book 2 too. I didn’t think I’d like second person, but I think I’ll have to seek out more books that use it.

  4. Amy

    I want to read this because I love everything witch related. I still watch re-runs of Sabrina the teenage witch and Charmed . I also enjoyed the new series The Witches of East End on Lifetime. The only witch books I ‘ve read is the harry potter series and Salt by Danielle Ellison and I really enjoyed those. I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for this book. I also saw where it’s in the works to make a Half Bad movie so really curious what all the fuss is about.

  5. Kristie

    I think you’re the first person who still compares witch stroies to Harry Potter. And now that I think about it, I don’t understand why I don’t do the same. I grew up on those books. I remember my mom reading Philosphers Stone to me when I six and finishing the series at the cabin my family rented for a week. I`ve never really read a book where it`s been like HP and I don`t think I ever will. The concept of witches is so vast that the possibilites are endless. I myself have read many mixed reviews about this book. After reading your beginning where you metnioned the multiple POVs, I feel I am slightly more prepared to read this. Had I started reading it without knowing such information, I may either quit or just put aside till my head could wrap itself around that idea. So, I thank you for that. But for now I just wait for my library to get this book in stock.
    Kristie recently posted…Stone Cold Touch Cover RevealMy Profile

    • Steph Sinclair

      I think HP is the only series I’ve read that featured witches, so when I think of witches, I immediately associate it with HP since it’s also what I grew up on. But I’m really glad I ended up reading Half Bad. It was a pleasant surprise.

  6. Michelle{bookhangovers}

    Oh good! This book is one that I was anticipating, I even posted a Waiting on Wednesday post on it. Then I starting reading some reviews on it and people were rating it low, saying how boring it was. Luckily today, I read another review that rated it 4 stars, so with your review and theirs I’m actually excited again to read it! WOO HOO!
    Plus there’s a giveaway! Even more exciting 🙂
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  7. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    Wow this sounds like a pretty intense book! I remember Giselle said that she really liked this one, so it’s been on my radar for a while, although I’m not sure how I feel about first and second person. It’s kind of like you said, it depends on the type of reader someone is, and I don’t deal with weird plots very well, but I’m still willing to give this one a try! I’m kind of morbidly intrigued at the mention of how brutal the whole atmosphere is and how there seems to be racial discrimination here. Fantastic review, Steph, glad you liked it! 😀 <33
    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted…February RecapMy Profile

  8. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I have read and reviewed Half Bad. Overall I enjoyed it but had some issues with the second half. I really liked Nathan’s character and thought the switch from second to first person worked very well. I didn’t notice the race thing at all when reading but like you, when looking at GR I could see it. I will be picking up the second book and I’m excited to see how this one does. Great review!
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Cover Reveal- Mortal Gods by Kendare Blake+Giveaway (INT)My Profile

  9. Vivien

    Honestly, the fact that the reviews have been so polarizing. And it sounds really dark. I like dark.

  10. Michaela @ Will Read for Coffee

    This book sounds like it has a lot of very interesting concepts going on at once. That can not be easy to pull off. I can’t wait to read it! I also like that it’s from a male prospective, it sounds like a wonderful change of pace.
    Michaela @ Will Read for Coffee recently posted…Review: Dare You ToMy Profile

  11. Joanna

    I love a great good vs. evil story. The best part is seeing the battles played and finding out what depth all the character are willing to go through to come out on top. Half Bad meets those criteria.

  12. Lynn M

    I’m very intrigued by the premise. I admit to being wary of the second person, but if it’s not the entire book, I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the review!

  13. Bonnie Franks

    Would love to read. Sounds intriguing. I like that you loved it after not wanting to review it. Love the good vs evil thing. Thanks for the giveaway!

  14. Shay

    I was really hooked by the fact it told the story with the two interchanging perspectives. That really sparked my interest and from then on your review review made me more and more curious to read it!

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