Haha – I think I have beaten Bex to reading the next big thing in Young Adult fiction! Which is a bit mean of me really since Young Adult is not my usual genre of choice (I don’t think I even remotely qualify as young anymore and only pretend to be an adult….) but is one that she loves (as you may have been able to tell from her If You Like John Green, You’ll Love…. post).
I have read a few bits of Young Adult in the past and I have also been reading a fair bit of stuff with teen protagonists (Universe Versus Alex Woods, Perfect, Casual Vacancy and God’s Own Country – all fabulous reads, you should check them out) but the books this made me think of first are the Harry Potter stories. The main character, Nathan, is a young witch who struggles with good and evil while living in a world where witches are commonplace but live unseen alongside non-witches – known in this world as fains. So far, so J.K. Rowling, but this is a much older and darker story. Witches are either ‘white’ or ‘black’ – with black witches being a illegal group, hunted to death by the whites – but our hero is a very unusual witch indeed since he has a white witch mother but his father is a notorious black witch. Imagine if Lily Potter and Tom Riddle had a son…..
Nathan is also very much a modern teenager. He is moody, swears, fights and, when he has to, steals but he loves his family – apart from one older sister who, to be honest, I imagine no-one likes much at all – and just wants to live as normal a life as he can. But his life is anything but normal: he is regularly assessed by a White council (who make the Ministry of Magic look like amateurs), removed from school and his family, kept in a cage, beaten and scarred. He cannot read – but, after his jailer reads him Solzhenitsyn, becomes a big fan of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Because he survives…
This is a fast-paced and gripping read but also takes the time to set you thinking about bigger issues. The title is ‘Half Bad’, presumably in relation to Nathan’s half-breed status, but you are made fully aware that white witches are not necessarily on the side of good. After all, it is the white witches who incarcerate and torture Nathan. The story ranges from London, through Scotland and Wales, to Geneva and, since this is just the first installment, it has much further to go. This one ends on a major cliff-hanger – and I don’t know when the next book is due. I’d better find out soon because I really, really need to know what happens next….