Let me begin by saying that when I first learned of Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die, I was excited like a kid in a candy store. I’m all for revisionist histories, particularly when it’s of a beloved childhood classic, such as The Wizard of Oz. And before even reading the book, I realized that I’d have to temper my (over)enthusiast self because nothing could possibly live up to my expectations…or the legacy that Wicked has left, both literary and musically.
Amy Gumm’s life in Kansas is pretty much miserable and she desperately wants to escape. With her pink hair, thrift clothes, and a snarky attitude, Amy can’t wait until she’s done with high school so she can get as far away from home and her mother who’s very dependent on mood altering substances, be it medication or alcohol. Well, Amy gets her wish when a tornado rips through her town and her trailer is transported to the land of Oz. But the Oz that Amy lands in is very different from the Oz she knows from the film–in one of the worst ways possible–and she, as another outlander, is expected to help make Oz a better place.
All the classic characters that you’d recognize are presented in the novel, with the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Glinda, and, of course, Dorothy and Toto. But they each have been twisted to fit within this alternate envisioning of Oz that Paige presents. The story proposed wasn’t a bad idea; in fact, I was quite intrigued to see how the story would develop and why it was that Dorothy MUST DIE–after all, it is the title. I was rather disappointed with the way that the characters were portrayed: namely that they weren’t given great description or motivation behind their actions. There was an overabundance of reliance upon knowledge of the Oz natives from previous works, such as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the 1939 technicolor film, or the various renditions of Wicked, and a lack of characterization to take the characters from their iconic traits to make them something unique and newly memorable. While Amy is made to be relatable and memorable through her snarkier comments, she came across as more annoying, but I will give her credit for having some agency to act and make decisions that were (mostly or seemingly) her own.
Now, I may be beating a dead horse with my next comment, but I feel like this book had sooooooo much potential to be something really great, but fell way short of the mark of greatness because of the execution. And I realize that many books now are written in the mindset of a trilogy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good practice to end the book with a cliffhanger–what if the subsequent books never get published? It’s a good idea to have the book be able to stand on its own while being a bit more comprehensive as a part of a greater series of work. It sets a rather bad precedent to assume that there will be more. It would be far better if the action and characters were to drive a reader to want more rather than the plot suddenly ending and demanding that a reader want more in order to gain some sort of closure from a resolution.
I had such high hopes for this concept, and it fell short of even my more tempered expectations. Overall, I’d give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.