52 in 52: Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige

[This review is based on the hardcover edition published by the HarperTeen imprint of HarperCollins Publishers in 2014.]

Here’s the deal:
Amy Gumm (in a beautiful shoutout to Frances Gumm, a.k.a. Judy Garland) is the class “trailer trash” at her high school in Kansas. After getting suspended from school under false pretenses, Amy decides she wants to run away from home. Before she has the chance, however, a tornado comes to town and carries her, her mother’s rat, Star, and their trailer to Oz! This isn’t the Oz you remember, though: The Technicolor, the magic, and the sweet, innocent Dorothy you remember are all gone. Dorothy has taken a much darker turn, as have the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the (not-so) Cowardly Lion. Amy discovers that the tornado that carried her to Oz was a means of summoning her to perform a very crazy and dangerous task — to assassinate Dorothy and return Oz to its former glory. Will Amy be able to do it?

My thoughts:
Dorothy Must Die was precisely what I was hoping it would be, and I’m in love with it! The first thing that attracted me was the cover art — the dust jacket and hard cover are simultaneously similar and different, and they’re both fabulous! Check this out:

The artwork alone was attractive enough for me to read the book, but I had no idea that the story itself would be as loaded as it is. It’s like one giant social commentary, covering everything from drug use and single parenthood to young love and teenage pregnancy. Teens and adults everywhere will be able to relate to the feelings Amy slowly develops for her trainer, Nox, who is another member of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked that she is fooled into joining under dangerous circumstances. Also at play here is Amy’s lack of a childhood, being forced to grow up at a young age to take care of her mother, who fell to depression and drugs after her husband walked out on them. Nothing but the assumed death of her daughter would be enough to force Amy’s mother to get clean, as is what tends to happen with drug abusers. You can’t help but feel for Amy, wishing she’d had a better childhood and better relationships with her parents, but these are the catalysts that spur her desire to kill Dorothy, which she believes will be for the greater good. The only thing that Amy seemingly fails to consider is the cost at which Dorothy’s death will come: If Dorothy is dead, who will be in charge of governing Oz? Ozma, whom you may remember from the L. Frank Baum books, seems to be in no condition to take over as it appears Dorothy has sucked all of the magic from her. So many other characters are corrupt, and it’s hard to imagine who could return Oz to its former state.

That’s just one of several big questions that the book leaves hanging over our heads. Here are a few others that I came up with:
1. Are you capable of killing someone, even if you say you’d never actually do it? What makes someone capable of murder?
2. How far would you go to do the right thing, whether it’s something you perceive to be right or if it’s factually the right thing to do?
3. What does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be wicked? How are they similar and different?

Aside from the morality of it all, Dorothy Must Die is full of throwbacks to the original Oz, as it should be. There are flying monkeys who serve Dorothy not because they want to, but because they must; the only way to free them from servitude is to cut off their wings. The yellow brick road still exists, but now we know that magic flows through it and that it may have a mind of its own — early on in the book, a Munchkin called Pete tells Amy that the road wants her to go to the Emerald City, and Amy can feel its magic under her feet. The Emerald City itself also exists in all its former glory, complete with Munchkin servants…but it’s run under the iron fist of the now-fascist, self-styled sexpot Dorothy. The original elements are all there, but they’re presented in a much darker fashion than before. The words “good” and “wicked” have become utterly meaningless in this new world; the Munchkins are not all candy-colored and pleasant anymore (in fact, very early in the story we meet a Goth Munchkin!); and the main grouping of characters — Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, even Toto — have gone completely over to the dark side. Danielle Paige took our beloved Oz to a very different, shady place, and I for one LOVE it!!

So would I recommend this book?
I love this book so much!! It’s a fun and very twisted take on a beloved story, and I loved its originality! Fans of The Wizard of Oz, whether in its book form or film incarnation (or both!), should absolutely check this one out! As a side note, it seems that Dorothy Must Die is going to fall into the same vein as the Divergent and Hunger Games trilogies: Read this book now, and then suffer the slow, tortuous wait until its sequels are published. Oh, and on another fun note, there is currently a television adaptation in the works with the CW Network!

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Click here to purchase Dorothy Must Die via Barnes and Noble!