Cynthia Ayala ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
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, where he finds his father and receives three gifts to come into his own as a witch or else death will befall him. But with everyone hunting him, whom can he trust and where can he hide?
This is a riveting breakthrough novel by Sally Green, published March 4 2014 by Viking Juvenile, Half Bad, the first book in the Half Life series, will captivate readers interested in the fantasy genre. The novel follows the character Nathan, setting up the plot, the character, and the situation he’s in. After that, it goes through the motion to explain the world that this novel is set in. Green does an amazing job of creating sympathy for the main character and delving into the psychology of paranoia. All the white witches in this novel, or at least, those that are part of the council let their fear and paranoia control their actions and torment the life of this one boy who is half-white witch and half-black witch. Unfortunately, for him, no one cares that he is half-white witch, and the torture and punishment he suffers as a child is so captivating, the reader can’t help but root for his character and the demise of the white witches.
This novel is amazing how it tells the story, starting in the present then working back up to it and beyond throughout the rest of the novel. What also makes this novel so captivating is the fact that the novel sets up the characters physical and psychological journey. The readers are not only given a reason to root for the protagonist but are also given a reason to care about Nathan. He’s not written as the traditional good guy with the charisma and intellect, but he’s also not written as the overly-good-looking bad boy with his over-the-top good looks. Instead, this character is somewhere in between, with the strength and charisma of some illiterate punk boy who takes every advantage he can in order to break away from the chains that bind him, both the psychical and the social. Nathan is a character who breaks free from all the stereotypes in the young adult genre and that is what makes him so interesting. Additionally, there are those moments when the character interacts with others where readers are able to see a lighter and warmer side of him that makes his suffering even more unjust in this world ruled by white witches who claim to want nothing but the best for their society.
Stylistically as well, this is a well thought out start to the series and gives readers exactly what they need as they read the story. The novel is not set up as a traditional novel with chapters but rather each “section”, while keeping the flow of the story, brings in a new aspect of the novel that highlights just who Nathan is and why his life is so incredibly unfair. Those sections also bring to life this realm within a realm and the sociology that drives the network of the witching world. It was both unique and brilliantly done. A can’t-put-down novel that will make readers root for the bad guys and seek out the demise of the so called “good guys”. ★★★★☆ (A)