Review of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Harper Fiction)

I started out loving everything about this book. Elphaba’s (the wicked witch) childhood and youth and adolescence are a beautiful coming-of-age story about a girl coming to terms with being obviously different than everyone else (she’s bright green). Then Elphaba goes off to college, where the story just keeps getting better and better, until Elphaba and her friends go to the weird trippy night club where a bunch of really far-out stuff goes down. Then in the next chapter, we skip forward a few months, the tight clique has disintegrated, and all the characters have been permanently changed and disconnected from each other.

I spent the rest of the book hoping we’d get some explanation for what happened, but we never go back. We never get any details about that night, only a few cryptic elliptical references. Instead, the story follows a monotonic downward trajectory towards an end everyone already knows is inevitable. This is a major bummer. By the end of the book, I was just glad the story was finished.

Finally, almost all the interesting plot and action and characters have nothing to do with the Dorothy plot line. By the time Dorothy and the Wizard show up in any meaningful way, the book is almost finished. I suspect McGuire is a closeted fantasy writer, but ashamed of it because of his “real literature” aspirations. McGuire only transplanted his story into the Oz universe as a marketing gimmick and/or post-modern commentary.

In the end, this book has a lot of the traits that make Harry Potter appealing: it reclaims the fantasy genre from the Dungeons and Dragons geek domain and the characters deal with problems that are at once alien and also very human.

Here’s a pretty Amazon link that includes my referrer ID:

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matt

My name is Matt Wilson and I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I love random emails from strangers, so get in touch! matt@tplus1.com.

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