Of all the 2014 YA novels she’s read to date, Amanda Hurley, manager of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fla., puts Sally Green’s Half Bad at the top of the list of titles she’ll particularly enjoy handselling this spring.
Not since the Harry Potter books – yes, I said it! – have I felt so fully immersed in an author’s creation. Sally Green spent most of her life as an accountant, and I must admit that I, as an aspiring author, am a bit jealous that a debut novelist can seemingly come out of nowhere and garner all the trappings of a tremendous book. However, as a bookseller, I couldn’t be more stoked over Half Bad, and this launch novel of a trilogy truly deserves all the hype surrounding it – and much more.
Set in modern-day England, Green’s fictional world is parallel to our own, inhabited by witches who divide themselves into “White” (good) and “Black” (evil). If you’re picking up on racial/societal commentary, then you’re correct. At the crux of the tale, and of both witching factions, is 16-year-old Nathan, a “Half-Code” born to a White Witch mother and Black Witch father. Predictably, his father is of the “most feared” variety, giving Nathan an unwanted and dangerous notoriety. Stigmatized, hounded, and persecuted from birth, Nathan struggles to suss out his true nature. Will he follow in his father’s brilliant but cruel footsteps? How much of his destiny is written out in his blood, and how much in the choices he makes?
A prophecy, a forbidden romance, and a character-on-the-run all work together to make Half Bad one of the most promising debuts I’ve ever read. The writing is top-notch, and Green is able to gracefully tread that line between literary fiction and rip-roaring thriller. Sure to appeal to the hungry fans of Harry Potter and The Book Thief, the Half Bad trilogy will (to turn a cheesy phrase) utterly bewitch you. It certainly has me!
Half Bad by Sally Green. Viking, $18.99 Mar. ISBN 978-0-670-01678-5