Review by: Mark Palm
The buzz on Half-Bad, by Sally Green is that it's a buzz book. That may seem confusing but essentially it means that a lot of people are interested in it. Even before it was published film companies were jockeying for the rights, so it's supposed to be The Next Big Thing in YA books, the heir to Divergent and The Hunger Games. In my opinion it's a good book, but not quite the KO I was expecting. It's better than half-bad.
There are witches, both white and black, and they have been fighting for centuries without the Fain, humans, knowing it. Nathan is the only half-blood, with a white mother and a black father. He is raised by his grandmother and is ridiculed and abused by White society. His story is a grim one, and told through Nathan, quite effective. One of the better and more audacious moves on Ms. Green's part is her choice of narrative style. Nathan can barely read, and has a limited vocabulary, but is not stupid. His stark language works well for most of the book, where the lack of melodrama makes the painful and tragic parts of Nathan's story more affecting. His romance with Annalise, a White Witch neighbor however, never really got me, perhaps because of the limited emotional palette. The rest of the character's are well drawn, each one unique and individual personality.
The main storyline is a coming-of-age story of sorts, as we watch Nathan, caged and abused, and trained by White Society, which usually has no qualms about dispatching Black Witches. Is he to be bait, or used as an assassin, to kill his father, Marcus, a black witch of terrible deeds and terrible power. Ms. Green does a great job keeping the plot hurtling along like a freight train, although near the end events feel a little rushed compared to the earlier chapters. Some of the characters get a little talky as well, dwelling on their feelings and what they plan to do next, but there is never a moment where the tension slackens. The old cliché about being on the edge of your seat was quite true in my case. While there is an occasional clunky moment in Nathan's first person narration I always kept turning those pages, and although this is just a guess on my part I can't help but imagine that Ms. Green's writing will just keep getting better as the series moves on.
The few downsides in this book are easily overshadowed by payoff, and I certainly applaud Ms. Green in her risky choices, because most of them pay off. As I said earlier Half-Bad isn't quite a KO yet, but it could be down the road.