Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

Series: Half Life Trilogy #1
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 416 (ARC)
Sources: Borrowed from a friend
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This is a bold statement, but I've got to say it: I think that this is one of my favorite books of the year. Already. I loved it that much! As a fan of dark, gritty reads, I couldn't have asked for anything better from this book. Scratch that, I could ask for book two to be in my hands now! The wait for book two may literally be the death of me. However, I have to admit that the comparison to Markus Zusak in the synopsis worried me. Markus Zusak is my favorite author of all time, and I don't think that anyone can compare to him. Sally Green is no exception, but the torment she can make me feel for her characters because of the isolation and alienation that is forced upon them leaves me speechless. This book made me feel. And while it didn't move me to tears the way Markus Zusak did, Green had my heart beating fast as I sped through this amazing journey of self-discovery and self-reliance.

HALF BAD paints the story of Nathan, a half White witch and half Black witch living in modern England. His life isn't easy because his father is the most famous black witch in the world. His father, you see, is one of the most successful magical murderers out there. Because of this, Nathan lives a long, complicated life. The world is legitimately against him. The White witches want to kill him for being a Black witch, the few remaining Black witches want to kill him because of his lineage and the power he can come into when he turns seventeen. He is beaten, bruised, caged, looked down upon, mistreated by everyone except his Gram, his sister Deborah, and his brother Arran. All he wants is to live to be seventeen and then receive three gifts from an elder family member so he can graduate from a whet to a witch, but he may not even live to his seventeenth birthday with his inability to trust anyone. I've never seen a character struggle so much before. The way that he is treated showcases how terrible prejudice is and how questionable humanity can be. This book can be hard to read sometimes, but, wow, does it make you think.

Nathan is among my favorite characters that I have ever come across. Somehow, he manages to survive even though the world is against him. He takes each day one step at a time and accepts where he is in life, but does not allow it to dictate what he does. He fights for what he thinks is right and takes what he believes he deserves. He loves who he wants to love and worries about the repercussions later. He is Nathan, and he is not going to be controlled simply for being different. And, well, I love him for it. My heart has swelled for him on more than one occasion while reading this book, and I have no doubt that many readers will be able to connect with him the way I have as well. I loved being in his mind because it was full of hope even when he was experiencing dark, bleak times. After turning the last page, I felt a sense of loss because I had to leave such a unique mind.

The secondary characters are strongly written, too. As expected, there aren't many Black witch sympathizers in a world where White witches are the only respectable magical beings. His Gram and his half-siblings, Arran and Deborah, are among my favorite characters ever. They are the definition of selfless and loving. They do not allow the evils of the world to corrupt their view of their blood sibling. They're the type of family members people would kill for. Though this is a fantasy, the three of them plus Nathan is a perfect example of an ideal family when it comes to love. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's nearly everyone else. And boy, are they vile. I often found myself shifting uncomfortably and silently screaming when I had to encounter many characters, not because of bad characterization, but because they were so well-characterized that I couldn't stand the mere mention of their name. The characters were so well done, and the way that their back-story's intertwined in unexpected ways fascinated me to no end.

This little masterpiece is split up into six different parts to describe really important chapters in Nathan's life. Part one, though very short, is told in second person perspective. This worried me slightly because it was so strange. However, the book quickly switched to a first person perspective and upon completing the novel, I realized that the oddities that the second person storytelling brought out in the beginning of the novel set the tone beautifully. This book is dark, twisted, and emotional. It takes you places that you've never taken before, in a world that's as twisted as they come. And that was only done because Green's writing was so descriptive and detailed. 

The plot pacing of this book was sheer perfection. All of the times in Nathan's life that I would want to know about were focused upon and I wasn't left with any questions. We seriously followed him from childhood to the day of his seventeenth birthday and when I learned about some of the atrocities forced upon him and committed against him throughout his life, it's amazing to me that he came out standing on his own two feet. And while this book ended in the best possible place, I am desperate for book two. I need to continue Nathan's story desperately, and I'm pretty sure that most readers will echo my sentiments. He's a fighter whose story deserves to be told.

With everything in mind, this book is not for those who cannot handle dark, gritty tales. There are human rights violations (but, hey, they're witches!) and there are terrible, terrible abuses. It's not an easy read, but it's absolutely captivating. I wouldn't recommend it for young readers, but for elder readers who flock towards darker tales the way I do. If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be "wow" and all I have to say is READ THIS!

A story of survival that completely blew my mind and took me places I never thought I'd imagine, this dark tale will be one to watch out for that shows that Sally Green is a force to be reckoned with.




  1. Hmm, I may have to check this out. I have such an issue with witch related books. I either DNF or give them a low rating - no idea why. The only witch related books that I've read that I liked was Harry Potter! This one however seems different and might actually break me out of my witch rut.

    1. It truly will! It's not your normal witch book and I seriously think that you will love it!

  2. I love anything witchy, so I want to read this badly Awesome review!

  3. You made me even more excited for this one! I love dark, gritty tales, so March 4 can't come soon enough <3

    1. It seriously can't come quickly enough though!

  4. Lili, I must read this book. I really, really must. I am going to the library site right now and seeing if they have this book sitting on their shelves. I think it may move ME to tears if I don't get to read it soon. I love dark and gritty. They are some of my favorite stories. This one sounds like it is pretty much perfectly tailored to myself, and I think that means I should read it already! Thanks for the review. Off to find this book!