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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years) Paperback – September 29, 2009

2,609 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Wicked Years Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born with green skin and huge teeth, like a dragon, the free-spirited Elphaba grows up to be an anti-totalitarian agitator, an animal-rights activist, a nun, then a nurse who tends the dying?and, ultimately, the headstrong Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz. Maguire's strange and imaginative postmodernist fable uses L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a springboard to create a tense realm inhabited by humans, talking animals (a rhino librarian, a goat physician), Munchkinlanders, dwarves and various tribes. The Wizard of Oz, emperor of this dystopian dictatorship, promotes Industrial Modern architecture and restricts animals' right to freedom of travel; his holy book is an ancient manuscript of magic that was clairvoyantly located by Madam Blavatsky 40 years earlier. Much of the narrative concerns Elphaba's troubled youth (she is raised by a giddy alcoholic mother and a hermitlike minister father who transmits to her his habits of loathing and self-hatred) and with her student years. Dorothy appears only near novel's end, as her house crash-lands on Elphaba's sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, in an accident that sets Elphaba on the trail of the girl from Kansas?as well as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Lion?and her fabulous new shoes. Maguire combines puckish humor and bracing pessimism in this fantastical meditation on good and evil, God and free will, which should, despite being far removed in spirit from the Baum books, captivate devotees of fantasy. 50,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; first serial to Word; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA?Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, has gotten a bum rap. Her mother is embarrassed and repulsed by her bright-green baby with shark's teeth and an aversion to water. At college, the coed experiences disapproval and rejection by her roommate, Glinda, a silly girl interested only in clothes, money, and popularity. Elphaba is a serious and inquisitive student. When she learns that the Wizard of Oz is politically corrupt and causing economic ruin, Elphaba finds a sense of purpose to her life?to stop him and to restore harmony and prosperity to the land. A Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and an unknown species called a "Dorothy" appear in very small roles... The story presents Elphaba in a sympathetic and empathetic manner-readers will want her to triumph! The conclusion, however, is the same as L. Frank Baum's. The book has both idealism and cynicism in its discussion of social, religious, educational, and political issues present in Oz, and, more pointedly, present in our day and time. The idealism is whimsical and engaging; the cynicism is biting. Sometimes the earthy language seems appropriate and adds to the sense of place; sometimes the four-letter words and sexual explicitness distract from the charm of the tale. The multiple threads to the plot proceed unevenly, so that the pace of the story jumps rather than moves steadily forward. Wicked is not an easy rereading of The Wizard of Oz. It is for good readers who like satire, and love exceedingly imaginative and clever fantasy.?Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Wicked Years (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 Reissue edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061862312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061862311
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,609 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute.
The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad.
He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

885 of 981 people found the following review helpful By Growllingbear on November 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you can find a better bang for the buck than Wicked, please let me know. I picked up Wicked, knowing nothing except that its subject matter was the Wicked Witch of the West, to be drawn immediately into Maguire's splendidly imagined world of sentient animals, multiple societies, and unique physical laws. Wicked is an enthralling, great read, hugely entertaining. On top of all this, Maguire has Bradbury's gift for creating atmosphere. The pages are heavy with dark, mysterious magic; its moral laws are ultimately incomprehensible.
Apparently doomed at conception, Elphaba is a truly terrifying infant. Razor-toothed and preternaturally intelligent, she is shunned from birth as a freak and a curse. She is nonetheless the tale's most complex, human, and compelling character, possessed of high moral sense and great courage. But neither of these qualities enables a single one of her brave, ethical actions to succeed. What are we to conclude from this?
How is it that Dorothy, the sturdy little nobody from nowhere who committed manslaughter as she landed in Oz, skips down the Yellow Brick Road impervious to danger while Elphaba strives and plots to reap only negative results?
Why is one protected while the other is doomed? Read Wicked and you will learn how the witch's monkeys became winged, where the rubies for those slippers came from, and, indeed, why the witch's skin was green. But you will wrestle, long afterward, with Maguire's moral pessimism and the snarl of grace and doom that underlies this novel. I know I will.
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162 of 193 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I must start this review by saying that it is certainly not a book you can take lightly. It takes some serious effort to stick with it, particularly once you get about half way through and the more light-hearted experiences of Elphaba, the wicked witch, at Shiz fade into her darker, secretive experiences at the Emerald City. After two failed attempts to tackle to book, fascinated by the subject matter both times, I finally got through it, inspired to read it because of the Broadway musical based on the book that I found myself mesmerized by (go see it, despite how different it is).
The book is a richly textured account of the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, here given an actual name, Elphaba, as she moves from student at Shiz University, an outcast and roommate to G(a)linda, to secretive activist in the Emerald City, to maunt (nun), to Auntie Witch, later to become The Wicked Witch of the West.
Throughout, the detailed religion, culture, and government of Oz supplement the narrative beautifully, adding depth to what could have been simply an unfounded story of what could happen to some flatly portrayed green girl from Oz. This story really makes you care for the witch and understand that even the most evil of people could simply be the victims of chance.
I thought the book began and ended very strongly, but the narrative sagged a bit in the middle, particularly as Elphaba becomes a nun and travels rather boringly across the desert to the Winkie stronghold of Kiamo Ko. The story stays rather low-key for a while, but picks up when some more familiar characters, such as Nessarose, Elphaba's sister, Elphaba's father, Frexspar, and Glinda, reenter the novel.
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221 of 265 people found the following review helpful By Kneel on September 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
(Note: I agree completely with Bruce Aguilar's review below.)

I was excited to read this book; I expected a great read.

Wicked relies on a gimmick. Though the result could be worthwhile, and I expected it would be in this case, it's not. There's just the gimmick.

Wicked is too long by at least a hundred pages - though the story could easily have been told and done, and the reader is feeling done with it, we're still left slogging along.

Just as the story is building to what turns out to be the (aborted) climax, halfway through, the author suddenly, jarringly, shoves the protagonist into a convent (though she's a complete non-believer), and then has her do absolutely nothing for the next several years (well, she cleans some floors or something).

Though we're still left a couple hundred more pages to wade through, the book is over right there. You keep hoping, expecting, it to somehow start up again, but neither the book nor the characters will every have any interest in anything again. It's over.

The story has, at that point, somehow become a political thriller (Wicked zigzags all about without ever finding an identity). Perhaps the deadness of spirit in a once-impassioned radical, after she's lost faith and/or hope, would have been a worthwhile exploration.

Instead, the story just ends. For some reason, the author keeps writing more pages. For no reason, really.

(The Nature of Evil theme is so incredibly weak and puerile in its rendering as to be nothing more than a tedious distraction from the plot. The characters basically step outside the story for a bit, discuss it, and then go back to whatever they were doing.
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