Release Date - March 4, 2014
Publisher Website - Penguin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 416 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads 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?Ever wonder what the Harry Potter series would have been like from Draco's perspective? Or perhaps if it's protagonist had been Voldemort's son? It's not had to imagine, right? Half Bad takes this concept and makes it achingly real. It mixes it's mythology with prejudice, and assumptions, and offers an addictive look at nature vs nurture.
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.
The concept of this novel is actually grounded in reality. For a novel that is about witches, there is very little magic in it. Instead, it's an unflinchingly honest look at the damage humans can inflict on each other. We can easily picture this story, because we see it happening around us. We know how children are treated if they are born to someone 'undesirable'. They are often automatically deemed to grow up to be 'just like their parent'. It can create a brutal cycle because the child in question never strives for more, and it repeats with their children. We, of course, also see the opposite, but the prejudices found within Half Bad are all too easily found outside its pages. It made the novel feel more authentic, and added an extra layer to the story.
Nathan's voice is one of the most compelling aspects of the novel. The character is what makes a twist on a classic story like this, and Nathan's voice does just that. When we first meet him he is locked in a cage. His only crime is simply being born. As we learn the mythology and what exactly it means to be 'half bad' my sympathy grew. Once we learn how rare Nathan is, and I physically ached for him. Here is a child who has been deemed 'less than' his whole life. The strength he has is staggering. He refuses to give up, lay down and take it. He refuses to curl up and die. It's this fighting spirit, mixed with his nature that makes him a perfect, if deeply flawed, narrator.
His family is a mixed bag of support and disdain. His three half siblings each offer a different point of view. His sister, Jessica, lives to torment him. His brother, Arran, genuinely loves him. His other sister, Deborah, seems to tolerate him without feeling strongly either way. His Gran has been a loving, nurturing presence in his life. However tolerable his home life, the outside world is anything but welcoming.
It becomes instantly apparent that not all White witches are good, and therefore it must stand to reason that not all Black witches are evil. We should know that lumping people into groups, and expecting them to be the same is ludicrous, but that is exactly where prejudice and stereotypes come from. The Witch witches who are hunting Nathan are brutal, and yet his captor, Celia, shows a different side to them. The relationship between Celia and Nathan is complex, intriguing and really surprised me.
The romance is the only part that fell a little flat for me. I liked it more by looking at it as an idea, rather than a real connection. Annalise is not as defined as the other characters. She's gentle, sweet, and kind. She's meant to be demure, and pretty. She is also one of the few people outside of Nathan's family to be kind to him. In this respect, it's perfectly natural he would form a crush on her. I hope her character is developed because I would love for the romance to be as gripping as the rest of the plot.
Half Bad is an engaging, intense read that will leave you desperate for it's sequel. Strong mythology, realistic characters, and wonderful writing came together to captivate me from page one.