The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Written by Gregory Maguire

1995 ** 406 pages

I tried reading this book twice before I finally buckled down and read the damn thing. The first time I started it, I got about 70 pages in. The second time, I made it nearly halfway. The third time? I got the audio book and listened to it while physically reading it, and I knocked the whole thing out in one day. Gregory Maguire's Wicked is not an easy read. It's a very convoluted, political affair that never really makes itself clear. It's written in a very confusing way in which sentences and phrases are written so that you're not sure what's actually going on. A very important plot point will be made very vague in just one little sentence, while Maguire rambles on and on for nearly 100 pages about nothing that really matters. A whole lot of stuff happens in the first 200 pages, but once the second half of the book starts, Elphaba (whose name was so "cleverly" chosen from the initials of Oz's creator, L. Frank Baum) does little to nothing of any importance for 100 pages. The idea behind this book is amazing. It's a real-world look at the life of the Wicked Witch of the West, attempting to paint her as a poor victim of circumstance. However, the book is riddled with not-very-well-explained fantastical elements (What the hell is the "Clock of the Time Dragon" really supposed to be?!) and just plain unlikable characters who do very unlikable things, even our troubled heroine, Elphaba herself. The material is handled much, much better in the famous stage musical, which actually gives us characters we like and a story we can actually follow. If you first became affiliated with Wicked through the stage musical, STAY FAR, FAR AWAY from this ridiculous, garbled nonsense.