Review of Half Bad by Sally Green

Published: 3rd March 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 400


You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.


Thank you to the lovely team at Penguin for kindly sending me a review copy. I knew that Half Bad was a well loved book, even before it hit the bookshops. I watched Sally Green on my local news and discovered we’re from the same region. I refused to read the blurb or read any reviews. All I knew was that it’s a Young Adult book and so I went in with an open mind… Oh wow. I would recommend that you read the book with a very open mind. Expect everything and nothing at the same time. It won’t disappoint, I can promise you that.

Nathan isn’t your average boy. I strongly enjoyed the unique view point at the beginning of the Part One. It allowed us, the readers, to feel as if we were part of the plot one hundred per cent. I automatically became involved with Nathan’s world and within a couple of pages, I knew it was going to be incredible. The chapters all led with great importance from simple heading names. Readers knew what to expect just by reading the chapter name. It was an easy yet effect use to the book.

In the second part of the book, we’re taken back in time to learn about Nathan’s past and to discover why he’s in the state that he’s in when we first meet him. I wasn’t sure how to feel about him at first – was he one of the good ones or wasn’t he? I sat on the fence for a while, silently wondering.

Half Bad is the type of book which requires a fair amount of concentration. For me, entering a new world was exciting, thrilling and nerve wracking all at the same time. Sally explains in great detail about Nathan’s world – who the Council are (thankfully Nick Clegg doesn’t make an appearance!), who his Father is and who he has to answer questions to.

The bond which Nathan has with his slightly older brother Arran was a heartwarming addition to the narrative. I loved how Arran had the up most respect and faith in Nathan, despite him being the black sheep of the family. I was drawn into their every conversation and loved them deeply. The simplicity of the plot worked extremely well. Sally didn’t use extravagant words, she kept it to a certain level throughout so it’s enjoyable for all teenagers and adults.

If you’ve read Half Bad, you may have made the same connections as I did. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was the first similarity I made about half way through the narrative.  Nathan enters Room 2c, much like Winston does in Room 101. But the similarities don’t stop there. However, I will as I don’t wish to spoil it. Harry Potter is the most loved series of all time, everybody knows that. When Nathan visits another character, he has to envision the place he wants to visit whilst standing in an alleyway. This reminded me a lot of The Room Of Requirement. Whether Sally has made these connections on purpose or if it’s just an accident, it was brilliant. I can easily see this being studied in future English Literature GCSE classes.

I’ll be seeing Sally very soon at a Waterstones event so check back for my blog post on that.

Twitter: @Sa11eGreen
Website: http://www.halfbadworld.com