READ: April 2016
I’ve never felt more conflicted about a book than I have about Half Lost. I was wary about starting this series because of all the hype it was getting, but when I was finally convinced to read it, I was pleasantly surprised. Green took risks with her writing, and the world felt harsh and unfair, and Nathan was such a compelling character. I loved that Witch was a gender neutral term, it was such a small but clever decision to make. This, combined with the fact that it was White witches that were “bad” and Black witches that were “good” (while they aren’t racial codifiers in the novel, it would be a little silly not to suggest that we don’t see white/black as such, generally) it gave me a really good feeling about the series. It felt different from other young adult novels, and after finishing Half Bad, I was very excited to read its sequel, Half Wild.
Half Wild blew me away. I was one of my favourite books of last year. I thought that the series made incredible progress, and it took turns that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. One of the things I was most surprised by was the introduction of Gabriel as a love interest for Nathan. I was so, so pleased that there was a potential for an actual same-sex relationship in a young adult series that featured the main character. I’d barely come across it before, and only ever when I’d really been looking for it. After I’d finished reading, I was incredibly impressed, and I felt bittersweet about the series ending, because I wasn’t ready to let this world go.
Which is why I’m so conflicted, prior to the final book, I genuinely loved this series, and while I was really dissatisfied with the ending, I’m not sure that I want to warn people off it entirely.
I was initially a little concerned when I picked up Half Lost at a bookshop and noticed that it was considerably shorter than its previous instalments. I began worrying about how the series would be able to successfully conclude in what seemed to be so few pages.
These worries pretty much disappeared when I actually started reading. It was action-packed, and compelling as ever. Nathan’s morality is so complicated, and it was really interesting exploring this. I loved his relationship with Gabriel, and how Gabriel influenced him and made him want to try to be better, to be considerate, and not give in to his violent impulses. Nathan and Gabriel remain the strongest points of this series for me, the scenes between them were my favourites in the book.
I enjoyed probably the first 90% of this book. I had issues with a few things—Hunters in this world are mostly women, so this involved Nathan killing a lot of women (which made me uneasy, but moreso when a situation arose in which he could have killed male guards, and didn’t). Also, to say that Analise was barely in the book, Nathan thought about her all the time—more precisely, he thought about how he was going to get his revenge, and kill her, all the time.
Ultimately, this didn’t work for me because Green was writing a war story that didn’t feel like a war story. The White Witches never felt like enough of a threat, so while these characters were going through hell, it never felt like they were, which made the ending (I’ll get into this) feel like it was done for shock value, and little else. Really, it came down to people talking about war and how hard and unfair it is, without it ever really feeling that way. In regard to the ending, the trouble is, I can’t specify what made me so mad, and so disappointed without spoiling the ending. It engages with a really awful trope, and still, I can’t even tell you what that trope is without spoiling the ending (this is an issue! The name of this trope indicates exactly which character it effects). However, I do want to talk about it so the rest of this review will contain spoilers. If you’re interested in the series and don’t want to be spoiled, then skip this next part.
If you want the no-spoiler reason for my disappointment, it really comes down to the fact that the message at the end of this series seems to be that if you’re broken, you can’t be fixed, and if you’re different, you can’t be happy.
First of all, I don’t understand this seeming obsession with “twist” endings. More often than not they feel like a cop-out, a way of wrapping up the series quickly and easily, without having to address any loose ends. The ending to this book felt like it was done for shock value, for the emotional effect of killing this character, and for no other reason. I am, of course, talking about the fact that Gabriel dies, when he should not have died.
Gabriel’s death felt uncomfortably close to the “Bury Your Gays” trope—a longstanding way of introducing queer characters into the narrative, and then “correcting” it by killing them at the end. This trope is so, so overdone, and what’s worse, is that Gabriel dies in the exact same way that many other gay characters have died: he’s killed by bullets intended for Nathan. He’s killed after the fighting is over, after Nathan has won, and so, for no other reason in that it’ll make people upset that he’s dead.
A lot of people might say that I just wanted a happy ending—which, yes. I didn’t come into this series to read about a gay teenager being murdered. That’s not what I signed up for. But realistically, all the straight characters in this book get a happy ending. Nathan, after Gabriel literally dies in his arms, becomes incredibly traumatised and lives in isolation, before he essentially commits suicide (he turns himself into a tree—and honestly, I cannot be convinced that this can be read as anything other than suicide. “Trees are alive”; “He’ll be happy!”; “He’s one with nature!” No, thanks! I’m not buying it). Nathan’s half-brother ends this series in a heterosexual relationship. Annalise has Nathan’s baby—they are teenagers and this baby is just casually mentioned. Nathan never wants to see his son, because he thinks of himself as a monster, which is awful. It’s awful that Nathan’s story ends up going full-circle. But why is this baby even here? What was the point? Annalise gets married not long after—this ends when Nathan’s 21? Why did this whole thing even happen? I absolutely hate it when children are just thrown onto the ends of series as if they’re little more than background props, as if having children isn’t a really huge, life-changing decision. Basically, the reason I was so mad, is that this book ends with a gay kid getting murdered and a bisexual kid killing himself, with absolutely no thought into the wider implications of this ending.
It is so, so disappointing that such an original series ended in such an awful, tropey way. It was done solely to enforce the “war is hard” message which we know, we don’t need fictional teenagers on the LGBTQ+ spectrum dying for it.
I still feel a little guilty for not enjoying it, which is silly, but mostly I’m just so sad that this was the ending we got.