Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Half Bad

Half Bad

Sally Green
Fiction
For ages 14 and up
Penguin, 2014   ISBN: 978-0670016785

Nathan has never fitted in. For as long as he can remember he has been the odd one out, the one who was not invited to parties, the one who was persecuted for being what he is. Nathan’s mother, Cora, was a White Witch and though she was married to another White Witch, she made the mistake of falling in love with a Black Witch called Marcus, a man who is feared and hated by White Witches everywhere. Cora and Marcus had an affair and Nathan was the result. Nathan’s half-sister, Jessica, hates him and tells him that their mother committed suicide because of Nathan. Everyone knows that Marcus killed Jessica’s father. For years Nathan believes was Jessica tells him, but then things start to change.

   It all really begins when Nathan’s grandmother, who is raising Nathan and his half-brother and sisters, gets the first notification from the Council of White Witches of England, Scotland, and Wales. Nathan finds out that he is considered a Half Code because his mother was a White Witch and his father is a Black Witch. When he turns seventeen the Council will decide what his “absolute code” is going to be. Will he be White and thus accepted by the White Witches, or will he be Black? If he is Black he will hunted down by Hunters and will be probably be killed.

   Nathan’s grandmother then gets a second notification demanding that she and Nathan go to London so that he can be assessed. The Council wants to know if Nathan can heal himself (a sign that he is indeed a witch) and they want to determine how smart he is. They also want to know if his father has ever contacted him, if Nathan knows where his father is, if he admires Marcus and loves him. Per his grandmother’s instructions, Nathan does not answer a single question and the Council cannot therefore give him a “Designation Code.”

   Life goes on and the Council comes up with and more rules restricting the activities of Half Codes. Nathan cannot have a Gift Giving Ceremony without the Council’s approval. He cannot have contact with White Witches or White Whets  (White Witches under the age of seventeen). Nathan goes to school and does not do well in any of his classes except art. Then he meets a White Whet girl called Annalise and the two youngsters immediately connect. Nathan knows that he is not supposed to speak to Annalise, but he spends time with her anyway. Soon enough Annalise’s brothers come after Nathan and he gets horribly beaten up. Not long after this happens he is expelled from school.

   Nathan used to think that White Witches were good and that Black Witches were bad, but now he begins to understand that the Council and many White Witches are cruel. He wants to meet his father and he wants to have a Giving Ceremony when he is seventeen so that he can become a witch. Angry with the establishment that is making his life so difficult, Nathan goes off on his own more and more, and over time he discovers that he prefers to be outdoors. Indeed, he finds it harder and harder to sleep indoors.

   When Nathan is fourteen he starts seeing Annalise, and is beaten up by her family members again. After this appalling event, that could have killed him if he didn’t have strong healing powers, Gran finally tells Nathan more about his mother and he learns that she did not commit suicide because she wanted to. She did so because the Council forced her to.

   Soon after he learns this, Nathan is invited to an old White Witch’s house and from her he learns more about his father and about what the Council is really like. The Council and the Hunters, who are tasked with the job of eliminating Black Witches, want Nathan’s father dead, and they are going to use Nathan to get what they want. Nathan is going to have to disappear before his enemies have the chance to capture him.

   In this gripping, gritty, often painful story we meet a young man who struggles to figure out who and what he is. He is being pulled in several different directions by people who have their own agenda, and he isn’t sure who to trust. Readers will find it hard to put this book down once they start reading, and will be eager to find out what happens to Nathan when the next book in the trilogy comes out.

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