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Wicked, the Book: is it age-appropriate for tweens/ teens?

By Isabel Kallman

Wicked: the book review
By Kimberly Petro of Petroville
wicked book appropriate for tweensGregory Maguire’s novel Wicked colors in the background and provides a sensational history for many of the characters in Baum’s classic 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz . In a nutshell, it is the life story of Elphalba, The Wicked Witch of the West.
Parents beware: this book is no fairy tale. Wicked is a creative, enveloping and dark story that mature readers and deep thinkers alike will find as tantalizing as a gourmet feast for hungry imaginations.
I would recommend this book for ages 15 and up due to some sexual content* and adult situations. Be that as it may, because of the element of fantasy, the impossibility of the scenarios makes the level of concern less severe. Instead of taking everything in the book at face value, I would encourage all readers to search for and savor in the meaning around each and every captivating turn.
During the book, we grow to love the main character, Elphalba, who fights for tolerance, loves with her whole heart, teeters on the brink of despair but tries, in spite of her failures, to always live a good life. She is not portrayed as being wicked at all. In fact, her “wickedness” seems to be more of a misunderstanding or perhaps instead some predetermined accident.
I found Elphalba to be the heroine and not the villain who frightened me as a child in the movie The Wizard of Oz. She is a strong female character who champions equality and never changes her political and religious values to suit others despite her hard life. There is almost as much to be admired about our principal as there is to be pondered such as the ever present battle of good versus evil.
I would again warn parents that Wicked is not a child’s tale. The book has no neat and happy ending to offer. Instead, its reward comes from the opportunity for rich discussion prompted by the fascinating tapestry of storytelling. It’s much more of a book club kind of book than a solitary preteen adventure story. If your child wants to read it, I suggest that you embark on the journey first. I did and I enjoyed the read immensely.
*Sexual Content: (spoilers included)
– There is a traveling “Clock of the Time Dragon” which claims to be an oracle. It tells stories in villages throughout the book. The entertainment includes puppets having sex, committing adultery and acting out violently.
– In the first section of the book, Melena, Elphalba’s mother, has an affair with a traveling glassblower named Turtle Heart. She ends up bearing his child, Nessarose.
– In the second section, some of the male students go to “The Philosophy Club” where bizarre sexual acts are alluded to as well as described. None are extremely graphic but the implication of a threesome with a tiger exists.
– In the third section, after Elphalba leaves school and becomes an activist on the verge of terrorism, she falls in love with a married man and carries on a sexual affair.


Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • Holly

    December 1, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review and age suggestions. One thing I wanted to stress a bit more is the potential for teens to associate with Elphaba’s feelings of being alone (particularly when compared to her beautiful, popular friend, Glenda) and the implications of race, class, and gender on her life. I think that teens — in the middle of the tumultuous and pettiness of teen drama — can really find a heroine and a world with tragedy and realities similar to their own. A great book to suggest to this age group!

    • Bennett

      November 30, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Note about Glenda- If you have seen the broadway show, you would know that her name was originaly Gulinda!!!!

      “It GUlinda, with a GUUU”

  • Amy

    December 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I would offer another caveat for those who may be interested in the book because they are fans of the musical Wicked or its score and expect to find the same storyline: please be aware that the plot is not the same! While the musical is based on the book, it differs in a number of aspects and is indeed tween-friendly. Being a huge fan with my tween daughter of the musical and the score, I tried to read the book and did not find it at all appropriate for tweens/young teens and, in fact, I chose not to finish it because of some of the elements described above. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more for myself if I had not been familar with the play, but would still find it inappropriate for the younger age range.

  • Rebecca

    May 3, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Thank you so much for posting this review for the book, including the sexual content portion. My 10 year old daughter has recently asked that I get this book for her to read. I generally proofread, but likely would have thought this “Wizard of Oz” tale tame. While she is very mature for her age, I don’t feel she would benefit from any of the introduction to the sexual content in this book.
    Thanks again from a grateful mother,

  • Kym

    January 3, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Please be aware, the sexual scenes in the book are both detailed and explicit!

    I am in my mid-40’s, a married woman, with children and was shocked and horrified by these details. On my own, my mind would never have created such perversion. I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FOR 15 YEAR-OLDS! Because of the perversions, I don’t recommend this book for anyone, especially those who are putting some effort into keeping their minds and hearts pure.

    (I have read this book up to the point where the unusual clock/oracle performs, and had to close it. I did not want to fill my mind with that sort of perversion, and was not brave enough to continue reading, just in case I would encounter other perversions. There may be nothing else, but from the reviews I’ve read, there’s more!)