Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this advance reader copy.
I wasn’t sure what I would think of Half-Bad when it arrived in my mail box. Truth be told I don’t read a lot of paranormal that deals with witches, but I am also the type of person who’s willing to give anything a shot.
Nathan is a young man, held captive in a cage, and who’s father is the most powerful Black Witch in England. Nathan is of half-blood, both Black and White Witch, and is treated as a cruel experiment. Nathan knows he must escape before his sixteenth birthday or else he could die before receiving his three gifts.
The first third of this book is surprisingly slow, awkwardly written at times, and not always the most clear in terms of explaining the rules to its world building. A lot of it also has to do with Nathan’s repeated suffering, and at first I didn’t like his character at all. I understood his mannerisms and behavior but I found him lacking in connection. Perhaps that was the point, but I just found the first half of this book difficult to connect with — the characters felt forgettable, the atmosphere felt same-y and it was a story I felt like I had seen before. It also didn’t help that Green loved throwing in second person point-of-view into the text, which read so awkwardly that I found myself shutting the book at those points. I’m not a fan of that perspective unless it’s in an old school style role-playing game (then it just makes perfect sense to me).
Now, while I’ve been hard on Half-Bad, I want to tell you about the second half the book which I absolutely adored. Once Nathan has escaped the book is an adrenaline rush. You find yourself turning the pages, he has characters that he is interacting with who are actually interesting. I LOVED Rose and Gabriel and I thought they really made the story work. I also thought the mystery behind Mercury was fascinating. It makes judging Half-Bad rather difficult because for all its false starts at the beginning, once you hit 50% the book just speeds off without a sign of stopping. The second half just also felt less convoluted and more straight-forward, which I appreciated.
Half-Bad is going to be a polarizing read for a lot of people, I think. The writing is interesting, but awkward, the characters have flavour, but it takes too long to get to know them, and the world is interesting but vague. These aspects are not always going to work for each reader, but I think the elements on a whole are pretty solid even if the execution for me personally left a lot to be desired.
Interestingly, I could see how this series might be the next big thing in YA and frankly if it does, I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed in the slightest.