Published by HarperTeen on April 1, 2014
Genres: fairy tale, fantasy
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
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. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.
Take the Lion’s courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!
Well, color me surprised! These riffs on classic stories can go either way, but it turns out that Dorothy Must Die is an awesomely skewed Oz.
There’s plenty to enjoy for all lovers of fairy tale-type fantasy whether you’re familiar with the books or film. Those who love the original stories will appreciate the nods to all the Oz inspirations, including a rescue from a pole, unsettling statues, a protective kiss, eye trauma, chamber maid disguises, and so on.
Personally, I’d always thought Dorothy should have clicked her heels together and wished for something better than a trip back to Nowheresville.
“You only heard half the story. She did go home,” Indigo said. “Turns out, home wasn’t so great after all…one way or another, when Dorothy got here, that’s when all the problems started.”
But while Dorothy Gale found that there was merely a man behind the wizard, Amy Gumm is plunked down into a crazy world where a power-mad Dorothy rules with an iron fist and a grimly fixed smile, where conspiracies run deep, and where both the innocent and the wicked are not what they seem. The author cleverly bends iconic story elements to change sunshine into something sinister, and the original Oz themes of wisdom, courage, compassion, and self-sufficiency are still strong as Amy’s surreal experiences allow her to explore her fears and to test her mettle.
“It matters how you do this,” I said through clenched teeth, staring him down. “What you do to get there. You can’t just kill someone. The ends do not make it okay.”
This is one of those books that I like more and more weeks after I finished reading it. It’s casually funny and quick-witted, it’s dark and gory and twisted, it’s got nimble use of magic, and it’s even a little touching. View Spoiler »I felt pretty bad for those poor monkeys and their clipped wings. And I don’t even like monkeys. « Hide Spoiler This is one of the best revisitations of a fairy tale that I’ve read, and it excited my imagination and feelings the way I hoped Splintered would, but never quite did.
A few things that didn’t work as well for me: it would have been nice to see a little more time spent on the romance–I liked it, but you don’t really feel the pull of the relationship as much as you should, and I wish everything hadn’t been quite so neatly View Spoiler »reversed, in that everyone who is good is bad and vice versa. « Hide Spoiler, as it would be more interesting if the story kept you guessing about motivations a bit more. Most importantly, I was a little uneasy about how immediately and repeatedly evil is presented in superficial manifestations. Upon meeting Dorothy, for example, the first thing we notice are bright red high heels, cleavage, silk chiffon vs cotton, make-up, and her ensemble is described as “somewhere between haute couture and French hooker.” I’m a little tired of the idea that all girls who pay attention to their looks are shallow, and the emphasis on Dorothy’s overt sexualization seems a bit out of left field for this particular story. It wouldn’t have bothered me as much if there were more balance in the way the good and bad characters were portrayed, and it seems unnecessary to focus so much on denigrating her physical appearance. I mean, the girl View Spoiler »reanimates a corpse « Hide Spoiler, so there’s plenty to criticize in her behavior.
I enjoyed Dorothy Must Die a great deal, though, and it’s going to make a hell of a television series. Between thrilling action scenes, quippy narration, tattoos that come alive, trees lush with apples that taste like pie, creepy birds, flavor-changing petit fours, and other delicious details I won’t spoil for you, the story keeps you guessing and I admire how the writing feels both contemporary and classic. The author clearly knows her Oz inside and out and deftly incorporates familiar elements into her own story (and fans will appreciate that even Amy’s name contains a sly homage to Judy Garland). But you know, if you’re familiar with the terrifying and SO INAPPROPRIATE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN film Return to Oz, there’s no way you could ever believe that Princess Mombi wouldn’t be evil. No way in hell. Sorry, Ms. Paige. It’s a Fate Worse Than Death to fall for that.
If you’re a fan of Oz, definitely give Dorothy Must Die a chance. It’s spectacularly fun.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
P.S. If you’re curious about the book, you may read the first 12 chapters on Epic Reads! It’s a great way to sample the story and writing style.
More Dorothy Goodness!
Have you seen my friend Margot’s arresting fauxto for Dorothy Must Die? She’s the lovely book shimmy queen at Epic Reads, of course, and her series of photographs inspired by YA books is awesome. I love the moodiness of this particular photo, and how it leaves you wondering what awful thing has just happened in Oz. *shiver*
You can learn more about Margot’s process behind shooting this image on her blog The Real Fauxtographer, and keep an eye on this space for another special feature with Margot soon, too!
And look at the beautiful ARC packaging for this book! Well done, HarperCollins. Well done.