Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Goodreads Description: I 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.

My Review: I'm not going to lie, I definitely considered not even reviewing this book. I found nothing redeemable about it, and why should I spread word about a book I despised? Ultimately, I decided to write this review for the same reason that I chose to read Dorothy Must Die to the end-- in the hopes that I could learn something, AKA what not to do.

I was draw to DMD as soon as it came out, as it had a lovely cover and even a staff picks sticker at my local bookstore. Naturally, that boosted my confidence, and since I love re-tellings, I hoped it would be the thrilling adventure I'd been craving.

What I got, instead, was every possible cliche in the young adult handbook. I'm pretty sure the author just Google searched Most Overused Tropes in YA and then crammed all of them in. From the love triangle between the 'sweet' boy and the 'troubled' one, to our main character being ghosted away from her home to be the "chosen one" and the "only one who can stop Dorothy." After Amy, our main character, is dumped into this twisted version of Oz, she trots along and gets herself arrested and thrown in Dorothy's prison despite the numerous warnings and red flags around her that insist it wasn't so smart. She might as well have walked down the middle of the road and then acted surprised when a car hit her. As Amy orients herself into this new world, she learns little by little about the world and what happened since she heard the story of Oz and Dorothy. And I mean, LITTLE by LITTLE. Because every flipping character has to give her the same roundabout "I can't tell you that/I'll tell you later/You shouldn't have to know things" bull that comes up far too often. I read a great post recently about tension that summed up the failures of this book perfectly: When an author withholds important information in an attempt to generate "tension," it means they have no faith that the story and its plot will generate tension on its own. Sadly, if the author didn't spend so much of the book pussyfooting around and actually got to the point, the book would not only be more enjoyable, but the tension would be stronger. When withholding information from your reader that the characters know or should know, you are treating your readers like toddlers. Instead of building a story, it leaves the reader frustrated and in the dark. They're reading your book because they want to know what happens. Don't hold back from that.

Tension aside, each character within this book made me want to beat my head against a desk. Amy is possibly the only character with some small bit of development and personality, and that's only because we get to look into her history, her mom, how she deals and copes with it all. But because this had no effect whatsoever on her story (not even affecting her choices in OZ, for example) the whole thing felt out of place. Aside from this, every other character was about as flat as a pancake, the most pathetic of which included the love interests, specifically Nox. The entire romance between them was so, so painfully forced. There was NO chemistry between the characters, there was barely even an attempt. The adult characters pushed Nox and Amy together like they were trying to play matchmaker. There was nothing there to draw them together, especially since their relationship starts off rocky (of course), and the only thing that made Amy slightly like him was that he said she wasn't useless. I'm sorry, but Amy needs some way better standards. A kiss eventually comes too, but like I said, the forced romance coupled with zero chemistry left me rolling my eyes and moving on.

The only redeemable thing about this book has to be the re-imagined characters of Oz. I really enjoyed how the author reinvented each one, but that's where the enjoyment ends. Though they were creatively recaptured, their characters were just as flat, if not more so than any of the others. They were often defined by a single thing -- the Tinman's love for Dorothy, the Scarecrow being creepy -- and didn't ever expand or build on that. Moreso, Dorothy's character had been completely flipped to be a promiscuous, drunk, cruel little princess. The author touched briefly on some of Amy's fears-- will she end up just like Dorothy?-- but didn't go deep enough. Why was Dorothy like this? What about the magic drove her to be this way? And more importantly, how easily could Amy slip down the same road?

At the end of the day, this felt, aside from the copious swear words that again, seemed out of place, like it should have been a middle grade novel. The thought processes and ideas expressed were very black and white and didn't look any deeper than the surface, and I feel like it could have been re-tailored to a younger crowd and been more successful. As it was, the book itself felt like a little kid dressing in provocative clothing, swearing, and trying to insist they were all grown up, while its reliance on troupes and cliches left it really juvenile.

If you're looking for the same crap you could find in any fanfiction on the internet, if you find comfort in simple concepts and cardboard characters, then by all means take a gander. The only thing this book is good for is guilty pleasures. Or maybe a fire starter.

TL;DR: .5/5 stars. Goddamn this one made me embarrassed to write YA.

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