Monday, March 03, 2014

Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

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Review: Half Bad by Sally GreenHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Life Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin on March 4th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, YA
Source: Penguin
Buy on Amazon

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.

Half Blood started as a 5-star read for me. This lasted ’til about three quarters which is when I realized we really hadn’t gotten anywhere in the story. Boredom quickly followed, until I was unfortunately underwhelmed by the anticlimactic ending. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly well written book that has a lot to offer if you have a bit of patience, although it’s unique in a way that may not adhere to all tastes.

When we meet our protagonist, Nathan, he’s naught but a young lad. Young and unfortunate to have been born the son of a notorious Black Witch; a fact that makes him a leper, someone to be hunted down and caged. We learn that, even though he’s highly intelligent in many ways, he’s not exactly book smart. He can hardly read and write. To reflect his age and intellect, the writing is very simple, even childlike at times, which I found brilliant. In addition, Green adopts an informal narration lightly peppered with slang that really brings him to life. Then as he ages, so does the writing. To make the story itself just as genuine, it begins with second person tense. It’s unusual, but highly gripping and surprisingly perfect. This is a child who has been controlled, tortured, and beaten both by his peers and by the system his whole life. Introducing the story with that choice of narration not only brings the horror of his situation to the limelight, but it makes you a part of it; it’s haunting and unsettling. While it’s definitely not for the younger crowd, the scenes of torture and suffering manage to be vivid without being overly graphic. The power of imagination is used well!

For the most part, however, the book is told through first person present, where Nathan narrates his own gruesome story. We follow him from childhood to his 17th birthday, from his hateful step sister, to his first love. We see how he learns to cope, to separate himself from the pain, to harbor strength not many would have. And, in spite of everything, he still manages to have a sarcastic sense of humor that had me chuckling.

The world building comes with no complaints. The witch lore is original, highly interesting, and doused with an old-school feel. There’s a complex system in place involving White witches, Black witches, Hunters, Gifts, traditions and myths, with details delivered in a way that wonderfully balances our curiosity and fascination. I was engrossed for a good while, but sadly, my interest did start to dwindle close to 3/4 through, when I started to get restless from all the waiting around. His long days of torture turn to long days of nothing: detour after detour, jumping through loops to find this witch who’s supposedly the answer to everything. I found myself getting increasingly bored. The plot was just not progressing at all. Then after all the waiting, the ending ended up being frustratingly anticlimactic. All this time, and it’s like a balloon that pops and quickly fizzles. It’s as if this was more or less an introduction for the real deal yet to come.

I would still very much recommend this one for all I liked about it. It’s as much a book about witches, as it is a moving story about a young boy learning to survive in a cruel world.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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32 Responses to “Review: Half Bad by Sally Green”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    That’s such a shame about the plot not really moving anywhere. It does sound like the world-building is really strong though. I’m not too sure about some scenes being in the 2nd person POV though. That’s just weird.
    Lovely review!

  2. Ashton @ Morphys Book Blog

    Thanks for the review. I’m really looking forward to reading this one. I can’t say I’m a patient person so this could end up bad but I’ll have to give it a go anyway as I love books about witches 🙂

    Happy Reading! xD

  3. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Poor Nathan. While I felt bad for his predicament and disliked those who had their boots on his neck, I couldn’t connect with him. And, yeah, there wasn’t really any forward progress with the plot. Where is it going? Who knows?

  4. Siiri

    The book I started last night–The Immortal Rules–also has an MC who isn’t book smart, but street smart, but Julie Kagawas writing more than makes up for it and the MC is rather wicked when it comes to certain things. Then again, I’m only 2 chapters in so. The world building seems very rich which I appreciate. I love the sound of this novel and I love the complexity of it all, however, I’m sorry that you felt so underwhelmed by the end of it. It’s a series though so perhaps what lacked in this book will improve for you in the sequel? Idk, but here’s to hoping it does:)

  5. Lolita

    Sad to hear that a boook which started so good ended up being just okay. I always hate it when that happens, my current read also started really good and is now hanging around the 2-3 star.
    How the writing changes to refelct the growing age of the main character, does sound really well done. I haven’t read many books which implemented that. Glad to hear you still liked it, even though it got a bit boring at the end.

  6. Stephanie

    I am finishing this book up now and I too have to agree that there was so much potential for greatness, but it became slow. I read the first 2 parts quickly and after that kind of fell off. I am finding the world very deep though so I hope I can enjoy the last sections for that.

  7. Maya

    It’s always a disappointment when a book starts out excellently but goes downhill after a while. Glad you still enjoyed it some of it – great review!

  8. Christianna

    Thanks for being so honest! I feel like everyone has been raving about this one and it’s good to see that they had reason to do so, but that this book isn’t necessarily perfect either. It does sound really awesome though. I think I’ll have to give it a try and just know I might find it a bit slow at times! Once again, awesome review!

  9. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    Yeah, I’m thinking I might have to wait this one out–see where the series goes and all that. It sounds like it has the potential to be good, but right now it’s just floundering. Thanks for the honest review!

  10. Savannah

    That hardest parts for me where the first 20 pages. It felt hard to get into the characters shoes. Once I was past that, there are some pretty gruesome scenes that made me eeeckk. Anywhoo, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    Ugh I hate when an ending is anticlimactic because I feel like it’s always the most underwhelming feeling, like a balloon popping just as you said. I feel like if you’re going to spend all that time and all that effort building up to the ending, it’s so sad for it to just fizzle out! I’m really glad that Nathan’s voice was really funny though! 😀 Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  12. Faye

    I’ve seen several reviews of this book floating around recently with differing opinions. I may just have to look in to it for that reason.

  13. Wendy Darling

    According to my co-blogger Kim, there is a lot of waiting around, hah. I read a few chapters of this, but couldn’t get into it, I’m afraid, even after I skimmed ahead to the parts that weren’t in second person. I’m sorry to hear you ended up being disappointed by it as well. So disappointing, especially after all the hype this thing has gotten. Should be interesting to see how it does. The mixed/negative ones are starting to roll in.

  14. Abbe Hinder

    This does sound like an interesting novel but as someone who isn’t very patient, I feel like I would also get bored. And that ending sounds like a huge let-down! Gah! I’m hoping that the next one is better! Great review!

  15. Melliane

    Oh I’m sorry it wasn’t as good all along. It must be difficult to have a book awesome at first and it changes after that… doesn’t happen a lot… at least for me. However the word sounds really intriguing, I like when things like that atre a little bit original.

  16. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I just read another review which said exactly the same thing about losing interest 3/4 through. DANG. I thought this book was going to be utter brilliance. Buuut, I’m not judging till I’ve read it. 😉 It does look awesome and the main character sounds incredibly well written. I like the sound of the child-like writing at the beginning. So cool. 🙂 This is definitely still on my want-list.

  17. Amy @ The Reading Realm

    It’s so disappointing when a book doesn’t quite live up to it’s potential. I find sometimes a book would be better off as a standalone rather than stretched out into a series. It will be interesting to see where there next book goes. The witch law element does sound very intriguing though and perhaps worth the slow progress.

  18. Faye @ The Social Potato

    This book was pretty much “ehh” for me. I mean I do admit that I was intrigued at first. I found the past Nathan (when he was still a wee kid) calm and calculating which I appreciated. I felt for him and was angry on his behalf because the rest of the Witches just treated him so awfully (I admit getting teary eyed in one scene), but when we got to the present, when we got him running away, when we got him running from one place to another I also got bored. LIKE SERIOUSLY NOTHING HAPPENS!! And I noticed his personality did a huge 180 change – from calm and calculating to a volcano that threatened to erupt anytime. He would always be screaming, glaring, throwing tantrums and I’m like… what. the. heck.

    Also, that climax? The reunion we’ve hated for like 95% of the book? ANTI-CLIMACTIC.

    Let me say that again.


    (I’m still raging whenever I think about it)

    Your 3 stars is not alone, Giselle. This wasn’t a very good book in my dictionary, either 🙁

  19. Lauren

    I just started this one, and so far I really like it. I’m bummed to hear that it’s going to slow down, and I’m not looking forward to the boring dragged out parts or the anti-climactic ending, but I love the writing so far, so hopefully it will overcome the bad parts like it did for you. Lovely review!

  20. JennRenee

    Great review. I am very excited to read this one. I hope the boredom doesn’t hit me. I get a little ADD with books sometimes. Glad you liked it.

  21. Vi

    I like that you were able to love more than half the book, even if it fell flat at the end. I haven’t really found many witch books I’ve liked. And I do love that cover! Might have to give it a read, although probably won’t jump at the chance, lol. Great review!

  22. Pamela D

    This book seems to have been on everyone’s most anticipated reads, but it hasn’t seemed to have met anyone’s expectations. 🙁

  23. Nitzan Schwarz

    Despite the fact the book got only 3 stars from you, I’ve got to admit you’ve managed to sell it to me more than anything. It sounds, aside for the anticlimactic ending and a bit boredom at the end, to be a really good read. I might just give it a chance *wink*

    Great review!

  24. Pili

    Great review, Giselle! I’m still a bit on the fence with this one, cause you really make it sound like a book super interesting despite how it sounds like it’d be a bit of an introductory first book… We’ll see if I end up reading it or not.