Review: Starfish Girl by Athena Villaverde

(Review for Bizarro Brigade.)

Is there such a thing as “girly” bizarro? Probably not. But in her debut novel STARFISH GIRL, author Athena Villaverde presents a strong case for it in this tale of unlikely feminine friendship. (I think it’s safe to say this is the first bizarro novel heavily influenced by Francesca Lia Block.) Villaverde creates a unique visual backdrop–a domed sub-aquatic world infected by a strange yellow algae, a substance that mutates its inhabitants into human/sea creature hybrids–and populates it with a cast of memorable characters. Readers disappointed with the lack of strong female protagonists in the horror/bizarro genres will be happy to see that trend bucked with its leads–the strong-yet-vulnerable Timbre and Ohime, the charming, good-natured title character.

Villaverde keeps the action moving at a fast pace, moving her characters from one dangerous encounter to another with little time to rest. Her prose is lean and straightforward without sacrificing her keen descriptive sense. And she fills the story’s periphery with a bevy of colorful, original “people,” any of one of whom could probably carry a book of their own.

Offbeat and ultimately touching, STARFISH GIRL should please fans of the unusual and unconventional.

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