2.5 out of 5 stars
If you’re going to reimagine a story, you need one thing: IMAGINATION. As much as, if not more than, the original had. And very few people have more imagination than Frank L. Baum. So I approached the Dorothy Must Die series with little enthusiasm.
It turned out to not be that bad. It’s not great either – the tone is alllllllllllllllll over the place, like a kid throwing up on a carnival ride. But surprisingly, Danielle Paige’s trip down the beloved road of Yellow Brick is more interesting than I expected.
Reimaginings are like Gremlins being fed after midnight – which probably won’t be how Gremlins replicate when that story is inevitably reimagined too. We are drowning in them! Reimaginings have an inherent problem: the source material is tired AF. It’s been written and re-written, filmed and re-booted, animated and extrapolated and dusted in glitter and stabbed in the face. So what can be done with a tale as beloved, and as used up, as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? (Blame that sentiment squarely on the James Franco/Mila Kunis wet fart of a reboot, “The Great and Powerful Oz.”)
Amy Gumm, modern Kansas teen, has a white trash mom, a white trash bully, and a trailer. She’s ripe for a spin up the cyclone, which dumps her – where else? – in Oz. But this Oz is part reality TV and part Eli Roth movie: Dorothy is that Kardashian version of an evil dicator, the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman are her gruesome henchmen, the Wicked Witches are good (sort-of) and, well, there are still monkeys, but these ones talk and have politics, which makes them a much stupider plot point than in the movie.
Amy is recruited by the remaining witches to join their Order of the Wicked. They aim to end Dorothy and her magic-draining ways, restoring power to the merry old land of Oz for the good of all. (Probably not, but you have to read sequels for that.) Along with necessary-token-orphan boy Nox, who is handsome because obviously, they train Dorothy to wield magic she never knew she had.
The story is well paced, zinging around Oz at a good clip. Amy meets plenty of new characters, all of whom would have been cut from the movie, but who round out this version of Oz as she’s learning it to be. Those in power are bad and greedy, those living under that power are good and scared. Taking their plight to heart, Amy goes undercover in the palace to carry out the book’s title mission.
I won’t tell you if she succeeds, but I will tell you the action goes from dangerous to disgusting in a line. The Lion and Scarecrow are seriously f*cked up in this Oz. It’s graphic and surprising and, to me, quite off-putting. Just as quickly, the story veers back into its regular course. These scenes convey the fear of the people, the importance of Amy’s mission… and are stomach-turningly unnecessary. Who is this book for? Like the few F-bombs dropped throughout, alongside scattered other swear words, these parts of Dorothy Must Die stick out like desperate attempts to seem edgy and gritty. But the story is actually doing fine without them, and so instead they are clunky and vain.
I don’t have much nostalgic love for Oz, but I was rooting for Amy to win. Her character, complete with flaws, is by far the strongest part of this story. While Paige has turned Oz on its head – sometimes far more than necessary – Amy reads like a real girl trying to do the right thing.
As for you, you can do your nails. Epic Reads can help.