Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Format: Paperback (also available in Hardback and e-book formats)
I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Sally Green and Puffin Books.
Excerpt from page 14/15:
“When she comes back a few seconds later, you’re round by the pantry door and you bring the iron down hard, pointed side against her head.
But she’s so blood tall and so bloody fast. The iron catches the side of her scalp and sinks into her shoulder.
You’re on the floor clutching your ears, looking at her boots before you pass out.”
The plot is great. On a fundamental level, it’s about the fight between good and evil both externally and internally. Nathan lives in a world where he, a Half-Code (a cross between a White and Black witch), lives in a world where White witches (who act as paragons of good) rule and Black witches (who are viewed as terrorists) are hunted. He must receive three Gifts by his seventeenth birthday or he’ll die. Left with no alternative, he must get to Mercury, the Black witch who eats boys, before he turns seventeen.
I love how Green builds a world. What’s more, there’s enough bumps in the path to keep adventure-seekers happy and romance enough to leave you wondering how Nathan and Annalise will ever be together. I will admit though that I was expecting something bigger at the end. It felt like a build up of pressure that deflated at the last page. Slightly anti-climatic but I stand by this book in saying that it’s still a great read.
The narration is different to the norm in YA genre. For the most part, it’s a first person narrative but in the beginning and interspersed throughout, is a different style that is Nathan’s voice but he uses the “you” pronoun, placing the reader into the text: “You go first. You light the match, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger…” (3) This style gets you closer to the action and makes you feel like you’re actually there, like you’re the one lighting the matches while the traditional, first-person style lends a more intimate quality to the story. Both work magnificently together and help draw the reader into the story.
I can’t really fault Green on character. There was a nice array of different personalities. Particular highlights for me where Mercury (and Gabriel, to a lesser extent).
Quality of Writing:
The quality of the writing was on-point for the most part. The only criticism I have is that I would have liked a bit more dramatisation than exposition in the story. I felt there were times when it would have made for a richer story if Green dramatised some of the character detail, allowing us to make our own observations and not spell everything out.
Green does what few writers manage to do and that is, to create a world. Not just a physical world (Wales, London, Geneva etc.) but an actual sense of a world (and community) when it comes to the Council and the war between the White and Black witches and the politics of Nathan’s world. I do wish we got a bit more concrete detail, especially in Geneva. At times, it feels like we could be in one of twenty different places across the globe. There’s a lack of definining and anchoring features at times.
The story is fresh and raw, darker than many YA novels. It’s edgy and definitely a page-turner. It reminds me of Divergent by Veronica Roth, in that it draws you into Nathan’s world and you always want to know more. It’s exciting and the craftmanship in the story is beautiful. I guess it also reminds me of stories about vampires like Marked and Twilight in that many of the characters in these books must deal with the good and the bad that rages within them. My main point here though, is that the narrative voice is striking and I haven’t seen anything quite like it in other YA stories before.
NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…
- Well-rounded, likable and horrible characters
- A different, edgy take on narration
- Good, quality writing
- Intriguing story and a world that draws
- Physical setting could do with a bit more anchoring detail but overall. great world-building technique
Books You May Also Like:
Divergent series by Veronica Roth – for a different (dystopian) world and a strong narrative voice
Marked (House of Night series) by P.C. and Kristin Cast. – for more of that internal good/bad struggle and that sense of entering and discovering a new world
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I don’t think there’s much I can say here that will do Rowling’s phenomenon justice so I’ll say no more