Half Bad by Sally Green

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I’ve finished The Luminaries!!! Hurray for myself. Unfortunately, you aren’t going to hear about it for another week. After I finished on Thursday, I sort of went on a reading binge that led to me reading four books this weekend. Three were books my mum lent me a while ago but the other was one that I bought after listening to Woman’s Hour last week. Woman’s Hour, by the way, is the highlight of my morning.

Anyway, on Woman’s Hour was a lady called Sally Green who has written a new young adult book that apparently the world is going nuts for. She had a million pound advance for her trilogy and the movie rights are already sold. The words Harry Potter and Hunger Games were bandied about, and I must confess I got a little excited. Not just because I love both those series, but because it seemed like it might actually be possible for me to read something fashionable as it is becoming so. Regular readers will know that I am often late on these things, particularly if it’s something youthful. So on Sunday, flushed with excitement, I bought it and read it.

 There will inevitably be comparisons with Harry Potter. For starters it’s about witches. Plus, there are some half bloods who are born to witches and fains, who are the muggles of Half Bad. However, that is really the only similarity. The witch world of Half Bad (and it is witch, the boys are all witches as well. No wizards here!) is a dangerous place. There are White Witches and Black Witches, but the distinction is not as clear cut as it sounds. For starters, it is a physical difference. The White Witches are in charge and they are not necessarily good. They seem to think they are, but I am not so sure. That is not to say, however, that the Black Witches are any better. They just happen to be in the minority.

 To return to the physical difference, parentage is very important in this world. So long as you are born to two White Witches, everything is fine. However, if you are born to a White Witch and a fain, you are less welcome. And if you are born to a White Witch and a Black Witch… That is definitely not good.

 Nathan, the protagonist, is in exactly that situation. He lives with his gran, his life gradually more and more restricted by the Council, until eventually they take him altogether. Nathan, you see, is somewhat of an unknown quantity. Not only is he the only ‘Half Code’ in the world, his father, Marcus, is the most powerful and dangerous witch in the world. It’s a formidable start to life.

 I would actually liken this more to Hunger Games than Harry Potter. It does not have the same absorbing world as Harry Potter, as the world is really just a few steps removed from ours. It has the danger of Hunger Games though, the sense of living under a despotic regime. I also thought it was brilliantly written. Sometimes I struggle to articulate what I think makes bad writing, but there were no moments here which jolted me out of the narrative, which is generally a pretty good sign. Nathan’s character is brilliant, tough and driven by a desire to survive. He is not a freedom fighter, at least not yet. He just wants to live on undisturbed.

 I thoroughly recommend this book and I can think of at least one young adult who will be receiving it from me this year. My only sadness is that the next one does not appear until Spring 2015. Pleut.



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