Half Bad

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Half Bad
Half Bad book cover.jpg
Front cover of the first edition of Half Bad
AuthorSally Green
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Half Bad trilogy
GenreYoung adult (Fantasy)
PublisherPuffin Books (UK)
Viking Press (US)
Publication date
4 March 2014 (US)
3 March 2014 (UK)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages400pp (hardback, first edition)
Followed byHalf Wild 

Half Bad is a 2014 young adult fantasy novel written by English debut author Sally Green. It is notable for its use of second person narrative as part of a wider first person narrative.[1] On 3 March 2014, it set the Guinness World Record as the 'Most Translated Book by a Debut Author, Pre-publication', having sold in 45 languages prior to its UK publication by Penguin books.[2]


Half Bad is set in modern-day Europe, mainly in Britain, where witches and humans (fains) live together. There are two primary types of witches: Black (generally oppressed and written off as evil) and White (the main population). The 17-year-old protagonist, Nathan, is half White and half Black, or a Half Code. His mother is dead, and his father, Marcus, is known as the most powerful and the cruellest Black Witch in the world. Due to the fact that Nathan is a Half Code, he has to go for annual Assessments. His every move is monitored by the Council of White Witches. He needs to follow several rules, but when he breaks one of them, his Gran is deemed unfit to be his guardian, and he receives a new guardian, Celia. Trapped in a cage and abused by Celia, Nathan has to escape before his seventeenth birthday when he will receive three gifts from his father and his magical ability, or Gift. Otherwise, he will die.

After two years, Nathan manages to escape and meets Ellen, a half witch and half fain, or a Half-Blood. Through many contacts, he ends up going to Gabriel in Geneva, who brings him to Mercury, a Black Witch who can perform Nathan's Giving ceremony. Mercury wants the Fairborn, a knife protected by a rotating team of powerful White witches. Rose, Mercury's assistant, Gabriel and Nathan get the Fairborn successfully, but Rose is killed by Hunters while doing so, Gabriel and Nathan run away. Nathan sustains several injuries but heals himself. Unfortunately, Nathan loses the Fairborn and cannot find it. Then, Nathan meets his father, who performs the Giving ceremony. He also removes the Hunter bullet in Nathan, who was shot while escaping. The three gifts Nathan received are his father's ring, the Hunter bullet, and his life. Meanwhile, Nathan meets Annalise, the girl he loves, and due to an unfortunate encounter, she falls into a death-like sleep and only Mercury can awaken her. Nathan begs Mercury to awaken Annalise, but she refuses to do so unless Nathan gives Marcus's head or heart to Mercury. Nathan refuses to kill his father.

In the end, Nathan runs away to find Gabriel.


Nathan Byrn: The 17-year-old protagonist. He has straight black hair, olive skin and black eyes. He looks like his father. Raised in a family of White Witches he is half White and half Black, referred to in the story as (Half Code: W 0.5/B 0.5). He can self-heal extraordinarily fast.

Jessica Byrn: Nathan's oldest half-sister who hates him. She later becomes a Hunter.

Arran Byrn: Nathan's half-brother, with whom Nathan has a loving relationship.

Deborah Byrn: Nathan's half-sister. She (like Arran) loves Nathan.

Marcus Edge: Nathan's father, the most feared Black Witch of all time. He killed Nathan's siblings' father, among others. His Gift is transforming into animals but he has also stolen Gifts from many other witches by killing them and eating their hearts.

Cora Byrn: Nathan's mother, a White Witch who committed suicide. Her gift was healing others.

Gabriel Boutin: A Black Witch stuck in the body of a fain. He helps Mercury to get Nathan to her in order to get his witch body back and later falls in love with Nathan. Nathan later falls in love with Gabriel, too.

Annalise O'Brien: A White Witch, some months older than Nathan. She later runs from her cruel family. She and Nathan were in love as young teens, but grow apart by the time they see each other again after Nathan escapes from Celia.

Somebody O'Brien White Witch and Annalise her father. He was a lawyer or something.

Mercury: A powerful Black Witch who is supposedly part of all different Witches.

Rose: A White Witch and Mercury's assistant, who always blushes and giggles - even though she doesn't look like that type of person.

Celia: A White Witch, Nathan's mentor who he was sent to live with. She abused and locked him in a cage. However, near the end of her time with Nathan, she seems to care more about him.


Sally Green submitted Half Bad to an agent in January 2013; in March, editorial director Ben Horslen acquired the manuscript for Penguin Books children's imprint Puffin Books, billing it "the book of the Bologna Children's Book Fair" after a 6-figure bidding war.[3] In the run up to its publication in the UK on 3 March 2014, international rights to Half Bad sold rapidly; within 13 weeks of acquisition, it had sold in 25 territories;[4] by November 2013, 36.[5] Upon publication day, it broke the Guinness World Record for 'Most Translated Book by a Debut Author, Pre-publication' with 45 different translations.[2]


Even before publication people drew comparisons to The Hunger Games,[6] Harry Potter or the Twilight series. Half Bad has also been compared to Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.[7] Additionally, Half Bad has already broken two Guinness World Records as the most translated book – and the most translated children's book – by a debut author before publication.[8]

"This grim and thrilling tale, first in a planned trilogy, features understated prose that lets readers' imaginations fill in the blanks, as well as a well-developed sense of Witch culture. Nathan, the damaged survivor of horrific abuse, is an unforgettable protagonist, and Green expertly captures his torment at being caught between the mutually hostile sides of his heritage."[9]Publishers Weekly starred review

Half Bad has been longlisted for the 2015 Branford Boase Award, which seeks to acknowledge outstanding debut novels for children and teenagers; it is an award presented both to the author and editor.[10] It has also been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2015.[11]


Half Wild was released on 24 March 2015.[12] The third and final book in the series, Half Lost, was released in March 2016.[13]

In November 2014 a Companion story, Half Lies was released.[14]


  • A feature film adaptation was in the works at Fox 2000 with Karen Rosenfelt set to produce.[15] However, no more information has been released.
  • In 2020, it was announced that Netflix are set to start filming a TV adaptation, helmed by Joe Barton. It will be executive produced by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish for The Imaginarium.[16]


  1. ^ JJ McConnachie. "Interview: Sally Green, author of Half Bad". nzbooklovers.co.nz. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Most translated book by a debut author, pre-publication". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  3. ^ Charlotte Williams. "Puffin swoops on Half Bad ahead of Bologna". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  4. ^ Page, Benedicte. "'Unprecedented' deals for Penguin's Sally Green". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Penguin racks up Half Bad deals". The Bookseller. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  6. ^ "2013 Best Books of the Year: Kate Atkinson Lists Her Favorite Reads of 2013". Archived from the original on 10 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Bewitching first novel by ex-accountant casts £1m spell on world of books". 19 November 2013.
  8. ^ "A literary smash: Half Bad, the new Twilight by British author Sally Green".
  9. ^ "Publishers Weekly review of Half Bad by Sally Green".
  10. ^ "Branford Boase Award 2015 longlist". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Waterstones children's book prize 2015 – shortlist announced!". The Guardian. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  12. ^ Green, Sally [@Sa11eGreen] (15 September 2013). "Set out to write lots of Half Wild today -wrote approximately three sentences. But read all of Silver Linings Playbook" (Tweet). Retrieved 2 October 2021 – via Twitter.
  13. ^ "Half Lost (Half Life #3)". Goodreads. Penguin Books. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  14. ^ "Half Lies, A Half Bad story by Sally Green". www.penguin.co.uk. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Brewing A Franchise, Fox 2000 Nabs Rights To Sally Green Witch Novel 'Half Bad' by Mike Fleming Jr". 5 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Netflix Unveils New U.K. Projects with Sam Mendes, Rowan Atkinson, Andy Serkis". 13 December 2020.

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