“Half Bad” by Sally Green

half badHalf Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1) by Sally Green, published by Viking Juvenile in 2014.

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Source: borrowed from a colleague.

Genre: Unusual YA urban fantasy.

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.
Easy. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 4/5

This one was slightly unusal. I haven’t really read a book I can compare to it – and I don’t mean anything particularly bad or good by saying this, just stating facts. It got a lot of mixed reviews around the book blogging community, so it’s clearly a case of love it or hate it. You either connect with the main character, Nathan, or you don’t – and I think the entire reading experience is dependent on this relationship, because the book is very clearly about Nathan, written from his point of view, and doesn’t cover much else but his story.

I really liked Nathan. He’s an atypical YA protagonist, I’d say. He’s half White witch, half Black witch, a mix that is looked down upon by the ruling White community, and he’s tortured and neglected because of it. He can’t read (he tries to learn but letters make no sense to him and technology gives him headaches) and so people think he’s stupid. He reminded me a bit of a cactus – something that grows to be sturdy, tough and prickly in very hostile conditions.

The colleague who lent me the book mentioned she didn’t quite get the division between Black and White witches – that they are both bad. I think this is exactly the point Green was trying to make as she drew parallels to well-known happenings in the human history. This racism of a blood-based kind is totally irrational but so deeply rooted in the society that it’s impossible to overcome. The ghettoization of the half-breeds, taking away their basic human (err… witch) rights – it all sounds so very familiar, doesn’t it?

The one problem I had with this story was its pacing – the beginning was rather slow and it took me some time to get into Nathan’s head, so to speak, but the tempo picked up about halfway through and then I devoured the rest really fast.

A note on the target audience for this book/series: I recently wrote a post on gender bias and sexism in which I mused about targeting books at girls or boys. This book is one of the rare ones where the publishers seemed to have chosen the middle way – YAY! I’d gladly recommend it to young (and older) readers of both genders and I think they would all find something to interest them in the story. It’s a good book that doesn’t really give a damn what people think about it, if that makes sense at all.

The sequel to Half BadHalf Wild, is coming in March 2015. I wonder where the story will go – many doors have been opened in this first part and it’s not clear where Nathan will choose to go. I’ll definitely be waiting for the answers!

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Have you read Half Bad?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or read your review!

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  • I have seen this book around stores here. And that is saying a lot because the YA section in Dutch bookstores are super tiny. I have heard quite a few good things about this and I really want to give this a chance. Might need to support my bookstore now. Maybe they buy more English YA if I give them my money ;). Thanks for entering in my giveaway :)!

    • Kaja

      Yeah, it’s been translated to Slovenian as well – this is actually how I got it, from an editor friend of mine who told me to read it and tell her what I think. It didn’t get that many reviews and hype on the blogs, though – or maybe it did, but we haven’t been blogging yet at the time? :)
      I always thought the Dutch were rather well-stocked with English stuff, especially compared to the French and the Italians who are totally miserable in this regard!
      Thanks for stopping by!

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