Half Bad by Sally Green Review: A half bad tortured boy

May 19, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Half Bad by Sally Green Review: A half bad tortured boyHalf Bad by Sally Green
Series: Half Bad #1
Published by Penguin Australia on March 4, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
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Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

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.


Half Bad is a story that you wouldn’t expect. The blurb describes white witches and dark witches hinting at lots of magic and fantasy, which it is not. What this story is however, is the account of one boy who is different from others and abused by the superior race for being a half black and half white witch.

The book spans Nathan’s life from childhood to his teens. On his 17th birthday, he anticipates receiving three gifts from a witch and the blood of his mother or father, in order to turn into a fully fledged witch with powers. Otherwise, due to the black in his blood, he will most likely die. The white witches have monitored Nathan for his whole life, and slowly but surely, they begin overstepping their boundaries and torturing this innocent boy. It is an incredibly raw, heart breaking account from Nathan who has been mistreated his whole life. From closely monitoring him, to removing his rights, to capturing him and keeping him under duress and killing his loved ones, the white witches know no boundaries as Nathan nears his 17th birthday.

I am kept in a cage and I don’t want to die in a cell and I don’t want to be tortured and I don’t want to kill my father. I don’t want any of it, but it just goes on and on and on. 

There are some interesting moral dilemmas that are addressed when it comes to good and evil. The evil black witches, are the ones who go on a rampage and kill innocent people including their own family. But if the good guys, the white witches torture an innocent young boy from childhood, use and manipulate him as a tool and treat him like an animal, how is that any better? The most striking thing about Half Bad, is if you swap out the word witches, for any race, colour or culture, it sadly applies to human nature.

Half Bad starts off at a slow, staggering pace as it details Nathan’s accounts with his family, and then his life in a cage. A good 80% of the book talks about every detail during this time, but the latter half of the book is a jarring contrast as it moves really quickly, skipping on some major details. Soon Nathan meets a heap of accomplices in his journey to seek out his dad and it made this half difficult to follow.

The writing is also slow, stunted, detailed with a lot of irrelevant information, but is somehow fitting for Nathan’s voice. It communicates Nathan’s confusion, fear, and hopes for connecting with his father as he learns about the world . Very little time is devoted to anything other than what is happening to Nathan throughout the novel.


Half Bad tells a raw, confronting, heart-wrenching story of abuse and discrimination, with a glimmer of hope and belief for the victim. Unimaginable things happen to Nathan throughout his early life, but he finds a way to deal and pulls through without breaking. Throughout the story, you’ll be aching for a release and happily ever after for Nathan. With a unique voice and some interesting moral issues between good and evil, Half Bad wasn’t…well, Half Bad.

Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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52 responses to “Half Bad by Sally Green Review: A half bad tortured boy

  1. Haha thanks Kelly, I tried to get away from too many puns but managed to slip one in there. It is a love or hate, although to be honest I haven't seen too much love for it. The magic element is pretty much non existent.

  2. I really expected more puns in there. Your review ain't Half Bad 🙂

    I've had this one on my list for a while, it seems most either love it or are pretty meh about it. The abusive situations that Nathan is in sounds like it's really confronting and might be better suited to a contemporary. Does the magic element make the storyline a little too busy?
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  3. I don't know if I'd be a fan of this book. I mean I like that it has a male protagonist and talks about witches and whatnot… but the pacing would really turn me off. I'd feel like if I were being forced to endure most of the book so I can finally get to a "good part". Nevertheless, great review!
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    • Yeah, I didn't think I was going to love it either but I was curious. I'm not sure if there was a good part, it was sort of plodding all the way through. Thanks Marianne!

  4. Haha, 3.5 rating. Not too far from mine, which was 3 😀 This was exciting and boring all at once. The slow pace definitely made me sleepy at times, and I hated how the middle dragged and became an adventure story with him going from one place to another. I found the ending kind of anti-climactic as well as it felt super rushed and over too quickly. What did you think of the love interest? She pissed me off quite greatly ^^;;
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    • LOL I know what you meant by exciting and boring, the most interesting part of the book was probably when he was getting tortured for me. The adventure story was the most boring part actually! The end was so random and out of the blue, I agree. Errr don't really have much thoughts either way about the love interest o.O it felt very one-sided.

  5. It's strange to make a synopsis different to the story but well it happens. I was curious about this one I confess because I heard great things about it. But well it's difficult when the pace is a little slow too. Thanks for your interesting review!

  6. I am going to read this book over the summer so I am somewhat excited? I mean I was expecting witches but… the book still sounds pretty intense and not half-bad (I CAN BE PUNNY TOO).

    GREAT REVIEW, Jeann!!! 😀

  7. Wow Carmel, that was exactly how I was like a few years ago before I started this blogging thing, so I wanted things to have a pleasant sort of story. Kind of the reason why I HATED Girl with a Dragon Tattoo with a passion as well as the Lovely Bones, because they gave me such horrible feelings. I'm glad there was a HEA too!

  8. The narrative was really unusual wasn't it, but definitely fitting for Nathan's voice. Eeehhh the 'romance' was kind of awkward actually…everything was awkward though. Haha I LOVE that you punned

  9. I totally know what you mean about needing more action, it was mainly slow and not much seemed to happen except for Nathan's thoughts and his torture. It was contemplative as you said.

  10. I think you ended up liking this one a whole lot more than I did. I had some problems with the narrative (although i can see how it's very fitting for Nathan) and the overall slow pacing of the book. i was just mostly bored throuhgout it. I remember also having problems with the lack of proper descriptions in the book (although i bet this was done on purpose as Nathan most likely tried not to see things/ignore them) and the wonky romance. I didn't feel it and just felt it was a bit awkward!

    I am glad you didn't completely hate this one though and it sounds like your reading experience with Half Bad wasn't Half Bad. lol see what i did there?

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  11. There were a lot of mixed reviews about this one, and while I can see why some people didn't like it, it worked for me (for the most part). I think that the slow pacing is what set it back in my mind a lot because in such a contemplative novel, I need a little more action, you know? Lovely review!

  12. I love those good vs. evil sorts of stories, and those that deal with abuse and other topics, but I'm not sure if I can handle how slow this one is. (I also tried reading a bit of it and was really confused.) Anyway, glad that you still enjoyed it, Jeann! <3
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  13. I loved this book so so freakishly much. GAH! *hugs book* I do get why it's not for everyone, but I could not eat it fast enough. I mean, the whole black vs. white witches seemed a teensy bit cliche? But I loved the rawness of Nathan's voice! And how he had a learning disability, I thought that was cool how it was an fantastical setting but still representing minorities. 🙂
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    • Oh wow, that's a strong reaction towards the book hehe! You're right, but the cliche-ness pulled me in. It was definitely a raw book about torture and abuse though, which was good. And the learning disability, I'm glad it was there.

  14. I'm like halfway or maybe a bit more through this but I had to put it down. I do really like it but like you said, it's pretty low. I'm really hoping to pick it back up soon though. Don't want it to become another one of those books that I just forget about. >< Thanks for reminding me about it! Love your review. <3
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  15. This book is on my radar, but I'm not sure I would enjoy it if it moves really slow and suddenly speeds up near the end. I'm not that fond of books like that. Unless of course there would be something really good in those slow moments. His experiences must be really awful too, and I feel like there would be a lot of heartache.
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  16. I'm pretty intrigued by this book. But then, it sounds like there's a mixture of really slow and really fast pace, which I think would confuse me (I'm quite easily confused, lol). If I end up reading it, it will probably be a while down the track. I have to admit the good/evil and white witches are interesting. Lovely review 🙂
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