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Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

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 From the back cover: When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we only heard her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so Wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

One of the highlights of the book is the complexity of character the Wicked Witch of the West aka Elphaba. She reminded me a lot of the character Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. She is loving toward a select few, and cold toward others.  She is strong with most characters in the book, yet vulnerable to the reader. Her duality made her very real and human. Depending on who the reader is,  it might make a lasting impression.

Another highlight of the book was the story world. While it is based on  L. Frank Baum’s Oz, there are many allusions to  the real world within Maguire’s Oz . For instance, an Animal is an animal that can talk like humans and is discriminated against for wanting to do things like humans do. If the animal can’t talk, it is considered normal. The Animals could be virtually any discriminated group in the real world including Hispanics, blacks, or homosexuals.

One of the shortcomings of the book was the plot. When things were heating up and the story is reaching the climax, it is like the author stopped writing and came back to the book. Due to certain circumstances, Elphaba ends up sitting still somewhere for a time and the plot gets tedious. The only way the reader will keep reading at that point is if they really empathize or sympathize with Elphaba (as the case was with me). Furthermore, when the book moves on to its next section (the book is divided into four sections with its own chapters), it felt like there was something missing, as if certain events could have been drawn out more.

In addition to the plot, this reader did not enjoy the way it was told from various characters’ points of view. The book is supposed to be about Elphaba, the girl who would become the Wicked Witch of the West. Why not just focus on things from her point-of-view? This reader did not care about a classmate named Boq; this reader only cared about Elphaba’s story! If the story had just been told from Elphaba’s point-of-view, then the confusion felt when going from section to section could have been avoided.

If you are a fan of the musical Wicked, then you might know that it is based on this book. If you are a hard-core fan of the musical, do not read this book because you might end up disappointed and bored. However, I do recommend this book for someone who is looking for a good fantasy story. Due to the violence and sexual material, this book is best suited for older teens or adults. Wicked was not great, but it was good.

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