Thursday, May 1, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so... -William Shakespeare"

You may think that Harry Potter has the monopoly on magical angst and abuse, but he doesn't hold a candle to Half Bad's Nathan. The book opens with him trapped inside a cage. He is forced to run laps, with a collar that poisons him if he goes too far. He has to do strenuous labor, and he is beaten for stepping out of line. We don't know why he is in the cage, or who put him there.

Half Bad is set in present-day England. In this world, witches live among normal humans. There are good witches and bad witches, and one half-witch, Nathan. His mother is a white witch, and his father is the worst of the black witches, Marcus. Nathan and his brother and two sisters are raised by their grandmother, after their mother killed herself. His brother, Arran, is his closest friend, and his sister Deborah is really nice. His other sister Jessica is a total bitch. Seriously, she's a younger version of Dolores Umbridge.

When a witch reaches 17, they must complete a ritual called a Giving Ceremony. This will give them their powers. If they don't perform this ritual, they will die. The ritual involves blood that must come from a relative.

Nathan secretly wishes he could meet his father, use his blood in the ceremony. Deep down, he believes that Marcus will try to find him. It doesn't seem likely, as Nathan is supposed to be the only person who can kill Marcus. Because they expect Marcus might make contact with Nathan, the magic council keeps close tabs on the boy. They pass all kinds of restrictions and make him come in for yearly assessments to determine if he is a good witch or a bad witch.

The council eventually ends up taking Nathan from his family. He lives with his captor, a tough woman who teaches him to fight and be strong. At the beginning she seems cruel, but by the time we get the full story she has some good qualities. The torture of a teenage boy is bad, but they end up with a mutual understanding. It's either really sweet or Stockholm syndrome. The council still isn't satisfied. They still don't know if he is good or bad. They plan to move him again, lock him up in the council buildings, but he escapes. His goal is to find his father and perform his Giving Ceremony, as his 17th birthday is only a few days away.

Nathan was a strange character. I liked him for the most part, but he was very volatile. He would react violently at the worst times, which made me feel very embarrassed on his behalf. It made me really sad that he wasn't very good at reading, because reading is the best. I understand that the character had a difficult life, but he rarely seems to help himself with that. He would face a bad situation and make it worse by punching his teacher, for example.

I was pleasantly surprised by Half Bad. I expected it to be a paranormal romance, a girly Twilight thing. It's nice to get a male protagonist. There was a good amount of grit and action, maybe a little too much at times. Overall, I really liked this book and I hope that we get a second soon.

I received copies of Half Bad from Edelweiss and Netgalley, courtesy of Viking Juvenile. It's available for purchase now.

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