Oz. The mere mention of the name can conjure up images of roads of yellow brick cutting through landscapes of oversaturated colors (and, we imagine, scents), towards the Emerald City. For more than a century, children and adults alike have cherished L. Frank Baum’s original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 34 sequels (13 written by Baum, and the remaining 21 written after his death by Ruth Plumly Thompson). But the original novels can be just the jumping-off point for adventurous readers!
Wicked is the first of a series of novels by Gregory Maguire (which is the source material for the popular stage musical). Last year saw the release of Oz Reimagined: New Tales From the Emerald City and Beyond, a collection of short stories returning to, and re-envisioning, the merry old land of Oz in unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable ways. This year, first-time author Danielle Paige tells an all-new interpretation of the land of Oz in Dorothy Must Die.
Sixteen-year-old Amy Gumm’s life is less than perfect. Her parents are divorced, and her father has remarried and started a new family. Her mother was in a debilitating automobile accident and is now addicted to pain killers and the booze she uses to take them. As a result of their tight financial situation, Amy is known as “Salvation Amy” at school, where she is neither popular nor an academic achiever. She dreams of the day when she can leave her school, her substance-abusing mom, and the entire state of Kansas behind, and make a better life for herself--somewhere, anywhere. What she never imagined was being left home, alone (except for her mom’s pet rat Star) in the mobile home she and her mom share, watching as her mom drives away in one direction while a tornado bears down on the trailer from another.
After a turbulent ride in a flying, tornado-borne trailer, Amy awakens in Oz! But it is not the Oz she remembers from the books and movie. It is duller, less vibrant, desolate and dangerous. The gray film that seems to have fallen over the land has also impacted Oz’s inhabitants. They are suspicious and fearful; few will actually speak to Amy, let alone help her. And no one is what they seem. The “good” witches can no longer be trusted. The “wicked” witches seem to be working to save the innocent. But they all are convinced of one thing: Amy, as the other girl from Kansas to arrive on a tornado, is Oz’s only chance to be restored!
In Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Paige creates a fascinating version of the Oz we all know and remember. It is a dark, frightening place full of menace, but at the same time resonates with memories that are comfortable and familiar. Paige has reimagined familiar characters as frightful doppelgangers, and no one’s intentions are clear. Dorothy Must Die is an enjoyable and intriguing trip over the rainbow; it is the first of a planned series.