I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. But I never expected Oz to look like this. A place where Good Witches can’t be trusted and Wicked Witches just might be the good guys. A place where even the yellow brick road is crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy.
My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission.
Remove the tin woodman’s heart, steal the scarecrows brain, take the lion’s courage.
And then – Dorothy must die.
I had really high hopes for Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige. They were partly a result of the title – which I still think is awesome – and partly because this was the first book I purchased on the way out of my flat broke stage.
At the end, my feelings are decidedly mixed. While the story, though initially problematic, engaged me, the writing style irritated me throughout. In fact I spent pretty much the whole time I was reading expressing to anyone nearby that this woman seriously can’t write.
But then I reached the end of the thing and found myself wanting to know what happens next. As I get further from it the chance of my losing interest increases, but right now at least, I think I probably will be continuing with the series.
So let’s talk about what I liked:
I really enjoy adaptations like this that take a world that is so familiar – and The Wizard of Oz is one of those stories that has been following me around since childhood, in various forms – and transforms it into a frightening version of itself. The bright and colourful Oz from the movies is faded and grey upon Amy’s arrival. The munchkins that greeted Dorothy are nowhere to be seen. It’s apparent from the outset that something is very wrong with Oz, but with only a bottomless pit behind her and no obvious way of getting back home, Amy has no choice but to walk forward on the yellow brick road, toward whatever the future has waiting for her.
Another aspect of this book that I really liked was the doubt cast over each side of the Oz-ian civil war (if you can even call it that yet).
Dorothy is the dictator who is draining Oz of its magic because she can’t bear not to feel powerful. That she’s evil is without question, but it’s an interesting story regardless, considering her background. The Dorothy of the original was powerless. At some point she decided that was not going to be her story any more, and the subsequent search for power consumed her like an addiction. I’m hoping that Paige will explore Dorothy a bit more in the subsequent books, but in the limited world of this one she was a scary and satisfying villain. There are a couple moments when she truly disgusted and upset me.
Of course, Dorothy is the dominating force of the book, but working against her is the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (who Amy falls in with for most of this book), and this group of wingless (ex) flying monkeys – exactly who they are working with remains unclear, but toward the end of the novel it turns out they have a couple major players on their side, but I’m not saying who cause spoilers.
Both these groups have very different visions for the future of Oz, and what the path to it looks like. The witches Amy is working with throughout claim to have a plan, but are very vague about the details. The only thing Amy can be sure of at any given time is that she doesn’t have all the information, and further into the book we get, the more suspicious that becomes. The monkeys do nothing to soothe Amy’s (and our) concerns. They don’t like the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, but, much like the order themselves, are very vague as to why.
All of this left me with a lot of unanswered questions and mysteries I am actually interested in getting to the bottom of.
What I didn’t like:
The writing style. I found it clunky and irritating. The whole time I really wanted to explain to Paige the notion of show don’t tell. The atmosphere that I knew she wanted us to experience was often lost in her telling of it. A lot of times, rather than having Amy actually discover something and go through the steps it would take in order for her to do that, she would just have her realise it out of nowhere. Every time Amy met someone new she would jump to massive conclusions about their history and personality. It made the story fall totally flat in a lot of places and is the kind of thing I always thought that editors existed to delete.
There is also a lot of info dumping in this one. Huge sections of character development are pretty much skipped over. Characters are introduced and killed within a couple of chapters and all Amy’s relationships are fast-tracked. I didn’t particularly care about the majority of the characters in this book because Paige didn’t give me the time to. She said I should care about them and then left it at that.
There were also, unfortunately, parts of the book that made my inner feminist squirm. Hard. The female villains are highly sexualised. Dorothy and Glinda the (not so) Good Witch are always wearing really revealing clothes. Paige makes the point (multiple times) that they are all low cut tops and short skirts. Obviously there is nothing wrong with wearing revealing clothing – people’s bodies are their own business – but connecting female sexuality with evil is a misogynist trope and can we please just stop with this stuff already? Having boobs and showing them off really has nothing to do with being an evil dictator who has an army who melt the occasional munchkin. It turns out that being a hero really isn’t affected by length of your skirt or how many guys you’ve slept with.
Do better, YA. I’m begging you.
Has anyone else read this one? I would love to hear your thoughts.