Half Bad (Half Life #1) | Sally Green | 2014
I’ll confess to not reading the blurb of this book properly and only realising half way through that it was part of a trilogy. Facepalm. Oh well, please ignore my basic fail. I was drawn to this book when I learnt that it was a YA about witches. Having recently finished watching the third series of American Horror Story (Coven), I’ve had the feeling that witches would be the next big thing. Apparently the Half Life series has already been optioned by Fox for a film deal so looks like this hunch was correct.
Nathan is known as a ‘half code’ or ‘half blood’. Born to a white witch mother but with a black witch father he has always been regarded as different, as an unknown. Especially since his father is well-known as one of the most dangerous black witches in history. Nathan’s mother dies when he is very young so he is brought up by his gran and lives with his two sisters and brother – all pure blood white witches. In this world witches gradually become stronger until they reach the age of 17 and are given their gifts in order for their magic powers finally come to fruition. As Nathan grows up, the Council of White Witches become increasingly agitated about the potential power Nathan will have and whether his father’s dark nature will be hereditary so they apply stricter and stricter sanctions until eventually he is taken hostage. Having heard that black witches die if they don’t receive their gifts when they turn 17, Nathan decides that the only way to survive will be to find his father, no matter how terrifying his reputation is.
Half Bad is a really strange one. A lot happens, but at the same time it feels like nothing happens. The pacing is all over the place. As Green tries to add more and more events and characters in you begin to lose the close identification with Nathan established in the beginning. You’re waiting for Nathan to finally come face-to-face with his father and when this happens it’s actually a bit anti-climatic. Also, you can tell you’re being set up for a typical YA love triangle in the second and third book and this does not bode well for me.
That being said, there is a lot of good about the book. It’s interesting to take the old school mythology of black and white witches and apply it to contemporary culture – undertones of racism are clear and unsettling. This is something Coven touched upon too albeit more overtly. The more contemplative sections where Nathan is most solitary, reflecting on his situation are compelling and really create empathy in the reader for Nathan, even if this is lost later in the book.
I’m really split on this book. I mostly enjoyed it although I felt it was getting a bit tedious in the last third. My hope is that Green can salvage this in the second book, although I can’t say that I’m on tenterhooks to read it. Having read some other reviews I know that a lot of people really liked the book so if you’re a huge fan of this genre you might like it, just don’t expect too much. Unfortunately, the title is strangely appropriate: half bad.
Have you read Half Bad? What did you think of it?