No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige. Harper Collins, 2013. Currently Available as an e-book.
Genre: Fantasy / Retelling
Face Value: This cover strikes a nice balance for a retelling. The original imagery is there (the yellow brick road, the Wizard’s balloon), but the contemporary style gives a clear sense that this is a different kind of Oz. And I like it.
Does it Break the Slate? Surprisingly? Yes! As this is a prequel novella that sets the scene for Paige’s upcoming (and terrifically titled) Dorothy Must Die, this is the book that’s supposed to give us the backstory on how our beloved Dorothy Gale can become Oz’s next great supervillain. (I love this premise, btw) And Paige does a nice job of establishing exactly how that might happen, without sacrificing the integrity of the character or Baum’s original story. What makes it a Slatebreaking story is the fact that Dorothy’s descent into wickedness is not only oddly empathetic, it comes as a direct result of her sense of loss when she has to return to Kansas where her options seem suddenly far more limited than they did in Oz, where she was a powerful hero. I’m excited to see Paige continue this commentary as the series goes on.
Who would we give it to? This one is easy. Find a girl in a Wicked t-shirt humming “Defying Gravity” between classes. She’ll devour this.
Review: I love The Wizard of Oz. In second grade I read all fourteen books at least twice, and some of them (the first one of course, as well as The Road to Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz) half a dozen times. I adored the musical of course, but I went absolutely crazy for Return to Oz, the strange movie with Fairuza Balk that captures the weird darkness hiding behind the beautiful magic that was always just slightly present in the books.
And if you like the darkness in that movie, the way it seemed to hint at a danger and excitement in Oz that goes deeper than poppies, I think you will also be taken with Danielle Paige’s concept here. Dorothy returns to Kansas, and her initial joy at being reunited with her family is short lived when she has to face the day-to-day dreariness of her existence. Her experiences changed her, but her surroundings don’t seem to understand those changes. She wants more, but has no idea how to make that happen. So when she has the chance to return, she takes it. And when she feels her grasp on Oz, and the magic within it, slipping from her, she finds herself retaliating in a way that consumes her.
Paige knows her Oz encyclopedia too, and she makes the little details from across the fourteen books really work. Her slight adjustments to the Oz history (namely Dorothy’s eventual return over the course of several more books) made sense and worked within the world she was creating.
Ultimately, this short novella felt a little incomplete. But that’s ok – in fact, I think it’s kind of the point. It’s not going to be Dorothy’s story anymore. This book is setting the scene for another one, for another girl to become the hero. And this book not only satisfied my ongoing love for all things Oz, it got me really excited to see what happens next.
Reviewed from library e-book.