Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Themes: Power, Good vs. Evil
Age Range: 7th-12th Grade
Amy Gumm, a trailer-park dwelling teenager from rural Kansas, is swept up in a tornado and finds herself in Oz. Sound familiar? Amy had read the books, seen the movie, but nothing prepared her for the Oz that she found. Good witches couldn't be trusted, and wicked witches were trying to save the world. From what, you ask? From Dorothy! That sweet little girl who landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and defeated the Wicked Witch of the West returned to Oz as a young woman bent on total domination of the land of munchkins and talking trees and flying monkeys. Addicted to the magic that powers the Land of Oz, she seized power from the rightful ruler of the land, Ozma, and enslaved the people in service to her never-ending desire for more and more magical energy. Oz, in short, was being sucked dry. Amy finds herself partnering with the formerly wicked witches to try and free Oz from the oppressive rule of the girl in the gingham dress-but to do that, she has to kill her.
If you prefer your fairy tales dark, this book might just be for you. There are plenty of things wrong in Oz, and the book examines oppression, slavery, redemption, and the evils of absolute power. I'm convinced that Paige modeled Dorothy's Oz on North Korea, it was that oppressive.
Amy herself is not just dealing with her Dorothy and her minions. She is also processing her feelings of self-doubt and helplessness in the face of her mother's addiction to pain killers, and the feelings of abandonment that came about as a result of her father deserting the family when she was in elementary school. There are also the regular cast of high-school bullies, girls who have convinced Amy that she needs to keep her head down and her mouth shut. But through the course of the book, Amy learns to own her power, both literally as she learns to fight and wield magic, and figuratively as she overcomes her lack of confidence and becomes a stronger person. In the topsy-turvey world that is the present-day Oz, she discovers a capacity for darkness within herself that has her constantly asking the question, "Am I am good witch, or a bad witch".
The rest of the series (The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War, and The End of Oz) follow similar themes, and are just as enjoyable as the first book. This is a great series to have as a part of a classroom library, and I could see it being used to compare with the original version, or as part of a study of classic tales updated for modern realities.