Source: Penguin Books

Half Bad by Sally Green
Publisher: Viking
Release date: March 25, 2014

Sally Green’s first novel is like a cup of black tea — the longer you stay with it, the stronger and darker it becomes.

Nathan is the son of a White witch and a notorious Black witch. After his mother dies, he is raised by his grandmother and half-siblings. White witches are the dominant group and are governed by a ruling council that has progressively stripped away the rights of mixed-blood, mixed magic offspring like Nathan. As Nathan nears his 17th birthday, he must find a way to complete the ritual that will confirm him as a witch and grant him his powers. If not, he will die.

The novel is written as a series of scenes and initially jumps back and forth between present and past. This mirrors the path Nathan’s thoughts take throughout the days and years. It’s disjointed at first, but slowly, the reader begins to connect the dots as the pace and suspense in the story builds.

Half Bad reminded me of the Harry Potter series, but it is more sophisticated and darker in its approach. It raises questions about a person’s nature, and wonders how much of our actions can be linked to upbringing and the labels that other people apply to us. Nathan has been persecuted his entire life for being the offspring of good and bad witches, and yet he still has hope and he can still love. Part of what kept me reading is in finding out which part of him will become dominant.

Sally Green presents a hidden world of witches who live in secret among humans. The characters are believable, vulnerable, and many of Nathan’s experiences and memories are just on the edge of unbearable to read. I love a well-steeped cup of tea, so, naturally, I can’t wait to find out how Nathan’s story will unfold as the series develops.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to students in grades 8-12 for leisure reading. Fans of Harry Potter will notice some similarities and other reviews have even noted how this story could almost be the untold teenage years of Severus Snape.