Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green
A review discussion with Jen @ YA Romantics

You all know that one of my favorite things is discussing books with people. Jen from YA Romantics and I had such a lively conversation about Half Bad, that we decided to share our thoughts with you in interview form. 

We've split our discussion between our blogs. On her site we talk about our general reactions, thoughts on the world building and literary comparisons. You can see that portion HERE

Below, Jen and I discuss the characters, romance and of course, love triangles. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, we've also included some predictions and hopes for book two. As they're spoilers, they've been whited out for those who want to avoid them. Just highlight the text with your cursor and you should be able to read those parts. 

Half Bad
by Sally Green
Read: February 10 - 11, 2014
Published: March 4, 2014 by Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Source: ALA
Category: Fantasy, witches, boy protagonist, YA
Series: Half Bad #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

Half Bad Joint Review Part 2 
Main character: Nathan

JEN: What I liked about Nathan is that he isn't the typical fantasy hero: clever and brave and resourceful. He's illiterate. His only talent – thus far  is drawing and having a stubbornness of personality that helps him survive all the horrors that his half-blood status forces him to endure. I rooted for him, but at the same time, I found some of his motives and decisions hard to understand.

LAUREN: I agree with your assessment. I enjoyed being inside Nathan’s head. It was hard for me to watch him suffer as much as he did, though certainly character building for him. I definitely felt a sense of protectiveness about him and a strong desire to see him succeed and figure out his path (though we aren’t even sure of that at this point). The sleeping outside thing I found to be really interesting, especially the way it's a bit of a vulnerability. But, like you, it was hard for me to connect to his unflappable devotion to certain characters.

The Romance

LAUREN: Speaking of Nathan’s unwavering devotion to certain characters, almost as soon as we met her, I had very strong negative feelings for Annalise. It’s not too much to say that I loathed her. 

JEN: Me too. Well, at first I thought that I was supposed to loathe her. I thought she'd be a villain, a female Draco Malfoy. So I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong about that. But I was also disappointed that she didn't seem to have much of a personality.

LAUREN: Her being a villain would have been interesting, at least. Or it would have defined her more. At first I thought Annalise was supposed to be a Hermione – because she’s good at school. But NO.  She’s both a weakness for Nathan and rather weak willed herself. I do get that she’s the first girl/person outside of Nathan’s family who was nice to him, and he had no one else for his fantasies when he was stuck in the cage. But I don’t get how his devotion and blind faith is still going YEARS later. It just made me cringe. 

JEN: Their relationship didn't make sense to me. Their attachment to each other and the risks they took for one other weren’t supported in this part of the story.  The only people I felt that Nathan had an emotional connection to were his grandmother and his brother, (highlight for spoiler>>) and to my disappointment, both of them were pretty much eliminated from the story by the end of the first book.(end spoiler)

LAUREN: I’m not even convinced at this point that Annalise is reciprocating Nathan’s devotion. I was sad that we didn’t get more of his grandmother.

Secondary Characters

JEN: I think we both felt that the secondary characters were sometimes more vivid and compelling than the primary ones. Celia, Clay, Mary, Trev, Nikita -- all of them were unique, well-drawn characters. 

LAUREN: YES to all the characters you mentioned. The secondaries stood out so strongly in this book, even the ones that Nathan only interacts with briefly. My favorites were Gabriel and Arran. But even Bob was memorable. Too bad Nikita is so young. She’s a much better match for Nathan and had a far stronger interaction with him than any of Annalise’s. 

JEN: Agree! I loved her and I thought they had great chemistry, even just as friends.

LAUREN: In each of the sections of this book we meet new characters, but left most of them behind as the story continued. I was hoping that they’d link back to each other a little more, especially, Mary and Celia. But hopefully, we’ll see that happen throughout the series.

Love Triangle Factor

LAUREN: Let’s talk about my favorite topic: the love triangle factor.  On the positive side, this book has a rating of NONE for love triangles. Nathan decides who he wants very early in the story, and sticks to that decision like glue. On the negative side, we’ve established a mutual dislike of his love interest, and not understanding why he stays so devoted to her. Annalise either needs to do something amazing to wow us, which seems unlikely. Or I’m hoping for a Linear Love Progression, so that Nathan will move on to someone else.

JEN: I agree with your assessment. I’m not always opposed to triangles, but adding a third character to the mix would just make the situation worse. Nathan moving on to someone else seems like a good idea. Or maybe he’s too busy for romance right now…

LAUREN: That’s a wise thought. The romance portion was possibly our least favorite part of this book. Maybe the story will back away from that element in the next installment and focus on Nathan’s friendships with some of the fabulous secondary characters. I’d like that.  

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - Medium - Definitely some set up for the next book. But no immediate danger. This conclusion didn't feel stressful to me. 


Predictions and Hopes
Jen and I also spent quite a bit of time discussing our future predictions and hopes for the next book in the Half Bad series. These comments are SPOILERS for the first book. Please read ahead with caution. We've also split this section between our blogs, don't miss Jen's portion HERE

Please be careful to label any comments that directly relate to the spoilers!



    I ship Gabe and Nathan SO HARD. I basically despised Annalise as well after Nathan was tortured by her brothers, so I'm hoping he gets over her soon. I didn't even consider the option of Gabe being a girl, but I can definitely see how that would work. Either way, whatever gender, I ship them. ;)

    I really enjoyed this debut, though. Like you ladies mentioned, Nathan is an unusual hero because he's illiterate but I loved the progression and juxtaposition of his actions against the White Witches. I felt so much for him during the first two thirds of this novel as we learned his backstory - my heart broke so many times. I'm really looking forward to a sequel - it better be out early next year at the latest! - mostly because I just need answers. Wonderful review discussion, ladies! I really enjoyed reading this!(:

    1. Wasn't that theory sheer genius on Lauren's part? The problem is that when I or another reader have one of these crazy/fantastic theories, if it doesn't come to pass, I will be very disappointed...

  2. This was SO much fun. We need to do this with another book :)

  3. As bad as I felt for Nathan, I felt a large, gaping distance from him. I truly disliked Annalise. Grr. Not that I'm opposed to a female bad guy; I just didn't like her or her way of doing things. And I really didn't like how blatantly obvious the Black/White thing was. Black=bad; White=good...really? There was *no* other way to approach this? Sorry. I'm picking because this book and I didn't get on. I read the whole thing--no DNF--but it came close.

    On the other hand, I love this format of review! You guys did a great job!

  4. I agree with you guys on Annalise, I just wasn't a fan. And I couldn't tell if I was supposed to not be a fan, or if she just rubbed me the wrong way and it was more personal. I could have throttled her though in the beginning when she walks away from Nathan and just leaves him with her brothers. WHAT? I would have actually liked Annalise had she been the villain, because I so love hating a good villain:) The highlight for me was Nathan's relationship with his brother, I wanted more of it throughout! Loved this discussion ladies!

  5. I really like the cover for HALF-BAD! It really catches my eye, and makes me curious about the book. I'm still rather wary of it because I don't read too many witch books. But the way you've described the characters here, particularly main character Nathan, actually kind of makes me curious! Love that you ladies discussed this one :)

  6. I couldn't get Jen's half of the review/interview to open, so I've only seen this side. I notice that the book is being compared to Patrick Ness which makes me really wary because you know how highly I regard him and feel nervous and distrustful of comparisons. And the fact that it is about witches! So I'm not sure about this one at this point! I either need more information or I need to investigate it further. At any rate, this is the first time I've heard of this one. Fun to do a back-and-forth like this, gals!

  7. Ha I love this post ladies, I was laughing out loud abut the Draco Malfoy comment that I just got a couple of strange looks from my sister. I'm glad that this book doesn't have any love triangles, but long infatuations with characters who don't seem to reciprocate your feelings bug the hell out of me. I hope you ladies decide to do a lot more posts like this in the future, as I had a lot of fun reading it! :)

  8. I love that you decided to do an interview format for your review on this! Love hearing both of your thoughts! I'd be really annoyed with the "romance" of being infatuated with someone who doesn't give a hoot about you. is a bit realistic. But they could do better! I don't read many witch books, but now I'm curious!

  9. I was just thinking from reading Jen's post first that I'm going to wait on this one until the sequel comes out. I'm a little worried about the prequel feel and the characters. But this was fun and I hope you girls do it again!

  10. It does sound interesting to me. It's too bad the female love interest doesn't seem like a good match; I'm excited to read why. It's great the the secondary characters appear real to you guys, because I love when characters feel like they actually exist in the world, and not as a plot device (I hope that's the case, anyways).

  11. Illiterate, you say? Um *ahem* PERRYYYYYY!!!!! Haha. Okay, sorry, I'm just not over the fact that UtNS series is done and through *sigh* "a female Draco Malfoy" OHHHH that would have been freaking awesome! I would have liked the Hermione theory as well lol. I'm sorry that the romance wasn't really your thing :( Yep, I have heard that the secondaries are amazing in this one and I cannot wait to meet them :) LOLOLOLOLOLOL! I find it funny that you secretly hope for a love triangle right now or, well.. a new love interest to be brought into the picture, Lauren :D Haha. It's ironic, but I do understand since you didn't enjoy reading about this love interest. I hope you'll both either grow on her, which is unlikely, or your wish will come true and the guy will have a more, perhaps, suitable love interest in the future OR just focus on friendships entirely :) Such a great review, girls! ;)

  12. Oh I bet you are right about Gabriel! I like that a lot and so astute of you to pick up on it! I mean, his name could've been anything and yet it's Gabriel(lle?). Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    I hope Nathan ditches his misplaced affection for Annalise and re-directs it to Gabriel. I will be keeping my eye out for Book 2. If your theory is correct my interest in the series and respect for the author will be making a noticeable uptick!

  13. Love this collaboration between you and Jen! Like I said on her part of the review, we've already discussed that I'm on the same page with you both in regards to this book. I think I liked it more than Jen--but I didn't loathe Annelise like you did--I just see her as a weak willed blah-ish type character. Nathan needs someone with more ZEST. Which is why I LOVE your prediction concerning another fave character--I hope you are right about that (yes to the Wuthering Heights point!)

    And I need to find out how you guys added that Click for Spoiler button at the bottom! Clever! :)


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