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Book Review: DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle PaigeI didn’t ask for any of this.

I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

The way the words would have it, there’s a fierce girl army getting ready to rise up and take down whatever mean girls or oppressive government regimes might stand in their way, all while maintaining the world’s most self obsessed melodramatic inner-monologues.

Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Paige’s debut novel, features Amy Gumm, a pink-haired, teenage badass and high school outsider from a trailer park in Kansas with a dead-beat dad and a junkie mom. Amy’s got the penchant for sass and knife’s edge attitude that always gets the better of the Katnisses and Veronica Marses of the world. But it’s that same independent streak that makes people want to follow her, believe in her, and eventually lets her believe in herself.

Dorothy Must Die goes back to Oz, but the place is a wreck. It’s dark, filthy, and dangerous, hardly the somewhere over the rainbow it’s been billed as for so long. Amy lands there by tornado, as most farm girls are wont to do, and instantly gets caught up in an underground resistance movement fighting Dorothy.

There are shades of Hunger Games in Oz’s burnt out countryside and subjugated Munchkins; touches of Harry Potter in Amy’s anointment as The One destined to take down Dorothy, and glimmers of the kind of magical world building found in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Magicians.

In less skilled hands, all this could make for a trite take on well-worn territory. But Paige gives Amy a strong voice and an even stronger point of view. She isn’t just one thing: she’s a little insecure as the outsider, but she’s secretly confident she’s better than the so-called “cool girls”; She’s wary of the Witches who start feeding her propaganda, but she itches for the power they can give her; She thinks the hot guy is a little too hot and a little too self-aware, but she’s not afraid to call him – or anyone – on their BS.

Dorothy Must Die is a YA novel, to be sure, but Paige does not underestimate her readers: there’s real violence, there’s real death, there are real stakes. She puts Amy through bloody battles, makes her witness horrifying murders, and has her experience an adulterated, wholly perverted Oz that’s essentially a nightmare.

Amy’s adventures proceed at a breezy clip, starting off, of course, with the gust of wind that takes her into Oz, and never really dies down. She’s off and running down the Yellow Brick Road and deep into the mythology of the world she saw in the movies with little time to spare. The patented teen-girl-inner-monologue runs along with her, constantly questioning, wondering, coveting, and secretly crushing.

Dorothy is the ultimate mean girl, her trademark blue gingham dress turned into the stuff of Project Runway rejects, offsetting serious cleavage and a dictator’s megalomania. And the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, where Oz’s remaining witches go underground, features some seriously bad bitches of its own.

All this is to say that Dorothy Must Die is kind of the ultimate in girl-powered literature. You’ve got empowered heroines, sure, but Paige also conjures a formidable villainess in Dorothy and some manipulative lady revolutionaries. Here, women and girls are allowed to be anything. This is a step beyond the one woman up front: Katniss flanked by her boyfriends and a bunch of men who want to take her down. This really is a woman’s world.

Dorothy Must Die is Danielle Paige’s debut novel for HarperTeen, to be released April 1st; It’s in development as a series to air on The CW with Heroes’ Tim Kring attached to produce.

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