Half Bad

by Sally Green
First sentence: “There’s these two kids, boys, sitting close together, squished in by the big arms of an old chair.”
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Review copy pilfered from the ARC shelves at my place of employment
Content: There’s talk of imagined sex (none actual), and some (mostly mild) swearing. But the talk of the abuse Nathan takes is hard to get though, even for me as an adult. It’s in the teen section  (grades 9 and up) because of that. Be wary of giving this one to an overly-sensitive person.

I was talking this book up in January to a group of educators, saying to look for it, that Green turns the whole “white=good and black=bad” thing upside down. How little did I know.

It does do that: sure. But to say that’s all this first in a trilogy does is to woefully underestimate it.

Nathan is the illegitimate child of a White Witch — his mother — and the baddest of all Black witches. Marcus, Nathan’s father, has alluded the White Hunters for years. And so, to say that having his kid in their midst irks them is a gross understatement. So the council imposes Codes — restrictions — on all Half Bloods. They start mild, with yearly assessments, but get increasingly more restrictive as Nathan gets older. It ends with him being held in a cage for two years. This is partially because of a vision Marcus saw that Nathan would kill him. The White Hunters want to make that happen: he’s ostensibly being “trained” to murder his father. Not that he has any say in the matter.

So, yes, Greene is turning good and evil upside down; how can the “good” people treat someone who is different from them so atrociously. (And believe me, it’s worse than bad.) But, the black witches don’t fare so well, either. Marcus, from all reports (granted, they’re  untrustworthy) is a despicable person. And the one time we see him, he doesn’t entirely acquit himself either. And the only other black witches we see aren’t that much better. Perhaps it’s more a treatise on how power corrupts, and how differences become so ingrained that we can’t see those who aren’t the same as us.

And even though it was difficult at times to get through, emotionally, it did give me a lot to think about. I’m quite interested to see where she goes with this series, and if she can keep up the complex nature of the characters.

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