My 2 Cents on Dorothy Must Die

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In Danielle Paige’s (Stealing Snow) 2014 YA fantasy debut, Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm, a bullied teenager living in a trailer park with her junkie mom, wants desperately to get away from her life in Dusty Acres, Kansa. In a way, her wish is fulfilled when a tornado tears through the park, whisking her away and literally dropping her into the Land of Oz, much like a certain Dorothy Gale. Amy, however, finds that Dorothy has returned to Oz and positioned herself as its totalitarian ruler. The Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and Glinda the Good Witch have all been corrupted into becoming her loyal minions. Soon after the Tin Woodman and his secret police capture Amy and throw her in jail, a witch named Mombi rescues her and recruits her for the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, a resistance movement consisting of Wicked Witches, in order to accomplish one task: assassinate Dorothy (and yes, one of the characters does declare that “Dorothy must die”).
Paige presents a vivid, gritty revisionist spin on the world that L. Frank Baum created in his The Wonderful Wizard of Oz children’s book series. It’s also reminiscent of Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years novel tetralogy, which offers a similarly dark reimagining of Oz. Amy is a relatable protagonist who copes with her environment through equal amounts of anxiety and sarcasm. Accompanied by her pet rat Star, she braves the dystopia of Oz, a place where Flying Monkeys cut off their wings to free themselves from Dorothy’s control, where the queen herself is consumed with a desire to mine the realm dry of all its magic, where the line has blurred between witches of the Good and Wicked variety—especially as Amy assists the Order despite the fact that she’s constantly questioning the trustworthiness of its rebels. Likable characters comprise the supporting cast; I particularly sympathize with Glamora, Glinda’s twin sister. Hardcore fans of Baum’s books and/or the 1939 musical may criticize the violence and the villainous roles that Dorothy and company occupy; personally, I appreciate how these new twists refresh a world with which we thought we were au fait. The narrative is fast-paced and solidly written, although it builds up to a denouement that drags for too long before arriving at its sudden conclusion. Overall, Dorothy Must Die is an enthralling read that will most likely convince you to dive into the sequels—The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War, and The End of Oz—in order to delve further into Paige’s perspective on the Land of Oz.
Windup score: 86/100

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