Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked has been on my back list for a few years now. The musical is coming to my town again this December and I wanted to consider seeing it this time. And with Disney’s new prequel coming out next year, Oz the Great and Powerful (not related to Maguire’s series), I decided it was time to give this book a try. Boy, was I stupid!

Being a writer myself, I frequently take a mediocre book and think about how I could make it better as I’m reading it. Let’s just say I’d have to write my own version of Wicked entirely and yes, I think I could do it better. I’m not trying to brag – just stating how awful I thought this book was throughout.

The first problem is that this book should really be in first person so the focus is from Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the reader can really get inside her head. Instead, it’s in third person omniscient with too many minor characters that just aren’t important. I spent so much time trying to pay attention to who and what I thought would be important, only to be let down again and again.

Instead, Maguire fills the pages with unnecessary details and buries the important points in dialogue. “Oh! Did you hear? Ole So and So died. Yeah, I heard about that but let’s have some cream now. Is that a magic broom? Oh dear, I’m so tired today. Then the monkey started crying and she was angry…” What? Someone died? Details! But Maguire drivels on with thirty more pages of nonsense instead.

Now, why I’m not easily offended, I was a bit disturbed by all the adult subject matter in this book, much of which is thankfully avoided in the on-stage musical I learned. Since Maguire is coined a “children’s author,” nothing could be farther from the truth with this book! We have homosexuality, adultery, bestiality, animal cruelty, sex in general, and lots of adult language. Like I said, I’m not offended by most of that but if I was a parent I would certainly not be happy if my young child wanted to read this after seeing the musical.

And speaking of, there’s so much agenda here. Maguire states on his website he wanted to write about what makes someone evil, but he never really expresses that in Wicked. He even seems to give up and states in the book that evil just is and no one really knows where it comes from. Mr. Maquire seems to have given up on the very character that made him rich! In fact, Elphaba is so minor compared to all the prattle about everyone else, it’s almost like he forgot about her or she’s not really that important because we know from the book’s cover that this book should be about her. You wouldn’t know that by reading it!

Next, too many of the big climactic plot lines are only implied. Maybe so and so slept with so and so or maybe they didn’t. Maybe so and so was killed by so and so or maybe someone else did it. Maybe Elphaba had a baby and maybe she didn’t. Maguire, make up your mind already and write something solid!

Lastly, with thousands of other reviews and thousands who will not agree with me, I can offer one piece of advice for those who might still want to read this mess. Seek out the “List of Wicked Characters” on Wikipedia after you’ve gotten into Elphaba’s college years. It will definitely help keep all the character’s straight. It certainly helped me get through it. After which I threw the book across the room and said a wicked curse toward Maguire for having wasted my time on this!


  1. I’ve tried to read that book twice and got frustrated with it both times! Also, I don’t get offended either but had no idea that some of that content was in the book! I work in a library and I’ve had middle school kids check that out! Now I try to give the parents a heads up if they know they’re getting it. Usually I’ll try to give a book three chances before I just give up completely. I don’t think I’m actually going to give it the third chance this time!

    • Hi Teresa- Yep, I was a bit surprised myself. For there to be so much hype from the musical (which I haven’t seen), it’s a catalyst for reading the book. And the book is just so peculiar. While reading it, I felt like I was studying to take an intense test in a subject I hated! It literally became a chore because the writing was so drawn out and not in a good way. Skip this one!

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