Maguire, Gregory. Wicked. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.
I recently was able to attend a showing of the musical Wicked. I loved the musical, simply loved it. The soundtrack is now on my iPod as my exercise music, and I do plan to go back and see the musical again before it closes. The plot is neat, the connections between this story and the original Wizard of Oz story are fun, the music is wonderful, etc. I was even more excited when I remembered that this musical was based upon a book.
I usually recommend that a person reads the book before viewing the movie or musical, but in this case, I am glad I saw the musical first before I read the book. I thought that this experience would be similar to reading and viewing The Princess Bride: the book contains much more information than can possibly be contained in a movie and almost enhances the experience of watching the movie.
Unfortunately, in this case, I was sadly disappointed by the book. The plot is similar to that of the musical; it is different enough to be noticeable, but not irritatingly so. I read some reviews on Amazon where other readers complained of more subtle differences: in the musical, Nessa is in a wheelchair; in the book, she has no arms. Those mildly irritating differences I can easily explain away by the simple fact that anyone who can act and sing can do so from a wheelchair, whereas it would be slightly more difficult to simulate an armless person.
The small differences didn't bother me nearly as much as the plethora of objectionable content and inuendo throughout this book. Unlike a movie or TV show, where you can change the channel or hit the "next" button to skip past objectionable scenes, it is difficult to discern where they start and stop in a book. And this wasn't just one scene or two scenes - the book was filled with such scenes and references.
My other difficulty with this book was the overall moral tone. In the musical, both Elphaba and G(a)linda are strong characters who make good choices and in the end choose to do the right thing even if it isn't the easy thing. In the book, however, the characters are all riddled with so many flaws and corruptions that I can't even root for the hero in the story. Elphaba and Glinda simply did not have the strong character in the novel that they displayed in the musical.
If you are a friend of mine or a former student, please do not waste your time with this novel. It simply is not worth it. This is one of the few times when you will hear me say it, but don't buy this book.