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Clockwork Girl

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Urban fairy tales for the weird girl in all of us. Athena Villaverde is a brave new voice in the world of offbeat young adult fiction. Like a combination of Francesca Lia Block, Charles de Lint, Kathe Koja, Tim Burton, and Hayao Miyazaki, her stories are cute, kinky, edgy, magical, provocative, and strange, full of poetic imagery and vicious sexuality. Clockwork Girl is a collection of three short bizarro novellas that make a perfect introduction to her unique style.


Cat Filigree is a caterpillar girl trapped in the ugly stages of metamorphosis, desperately waiting to be transformed into a butterfly. With her flaky skin and glazed eyes, she has become one of the least popular girls at her high school. Tormented daily by the popular lady bug girls and fig-beetle jocks, she hides away from the world, listening to Bauhaus records and reading Grant Morrison comics. She thinks she's doomed to be alone forever, until she meets Lilith- a beautiful, punk rock, corset-wearing spider girl whom Cat falls madly in love with. But there's a problem: because she's a spider girl, Lilith has the tendency to kill and eat her lovers. And butterflies happen to be her favorite food.


Pichi was once a normal human girl. But now her skin is made of brass, her organs have been replaced by cogs and gears, and her heart must be wound up every day in order to stay alive. She is a clockwork girl. Like most children of poor families, she was sold to a toymaker, surgically transformed into a mechanical living doll, and given as a Christmas present to a rich little girl who was no longer satisfied with ordinary porcelain dolls. She has no memory of her past or even her real name. All she knows is that she's in love with her new owner and wants to be with her forever. But what she doesn't know is that little girls always outgrow their toys, eventually.


Her skin is made of honeycomb. She smells of baked oranges and is dripping with amber- colored honey. Living bees swarm around her like miniature lovers and crawl through her hair as she dances. She is Maya, the queen of the tango; the sexiest, most powerful dancer in town. Every man in the tango community longs to dance with Maya, but very few dare to try. You see, Maya's skin is a living beehive. And if a man attempts to dance with her who lacks the proper amount of talent and grace, he will get stung . . . perhaps even stung to death.

160 pages, Paperback

First published December 19, 2011

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About the author

Athena Villaverde

2 books57 followers
Athena Villaverde writes sexy and weird bizarro fantasy tales, often set in wastelands populated by colorful and magical characters. Part cyber-punk, part urban fantasy. Cute and disturbing.

Her interests include Tarot, knitting, fetish fashion, kawaii noir, chaos magick, hair dye, drawing and painting, dancing, Japanese anime, cult films, genetic mutations, parasites, survivalism, cosplay, steampunk, gothic lolita, mythology, burlesque, body modification, new wave, ska, punk rock.

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5 stars
23 (33%)
4 stars
29 (42%)
3 stars
14 (20%)
2 stars
2 (2%)
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1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,891 reviews10.5k followers
January 29, 2012
Caterpillar Girl: A caterpillar girl named Cat is secretly in love with her best friend, a spider girl named Lilith. With their relationship survive her eventual metamorphosis?

As I've said in other reviews, risking my man-card in the process, my favorite bizarro stories are usually the love stories. This is one of the best bizarro love stories I've yet read. It struck a chord with this reader. Who hasn't been in love with someone but unable to even talk to them? The ending was surprising but has an eery beauty to it.

Clockwork Girl:
The Clockwork Girl tells the story of a toy clockwork girl named Pichi who first falls in love with her owner and then is discarded when her owner gets too old. That's about all I can say of the plot without giving too much away.

The Clockwork Girl is like something Peter S. Beagle might write if he was into Bizarro fiction. Pichi's innocence made the story for me. It would make a great Pixar movie if they'd let Tim Burton anywhere near the building.

Beehive Girl:
When you dance the tango with the Beehive Girl, you're dancing with death!

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. The Beehive Girl is a tale of the tango scene, where Maya, the beehive girl, is queen. If she chooses you as her partner, she's as sweet as honey until you screw up. Then you get stung.

Even though the title is Beehive Girl and the plot seemed to be leading in that direction, I wasn't sure the main character was going to end up dancing with Maya. The ending, much like the ending of Catepillar Girl, wasn't quite what I expected but was quite good none the less. Much like P.G. Wodehouse did with golf in The Clicking of Cuthbert, Athena Villaverde has made me care about the tango in Beehive Girl.

This is an easy four star collection from Athena Villaverde. Much like Starfish Girl, it's Bizarro fiction under a veneer of cuteness.

Profile Image for Rodney.
Author 5 books63 followers
November 10, 2015
These are strongly whimsical stories that also hit at the emotions. I really liked reading this. The first two stories in particular were superb. These may have been favorites because I am a bit of a sucker for coming of age stories. Both were odd in the best way, yet touching. Small details aside, I look forward to reading Starfish Girl and hope the author has even more out there for me to experience. I could see Clockwork Girl being one of the first books I would recommend to my daughter when she is old enough to read cool adult stuff.
Profile Image for Autumn Christian.
Author 15 books304 followers
December 9, 2014
The kind of fiction for girls that I've always wanted to read - elegant, cool, sexy, and disturbing. Comprised of three novellas, each featuring an odd world with an odder girl, the worlds whimscial and almost able to be touched. Highly recommended.
97 reviews8 followers
December 31, 2013


         This book hit me where I live. I think it'd hit most people where they live. It's a very, very good book. I can't recommend it to anyone, but it's amazing. 

          Allow me to explain: This small novella affected me almost more than anything else I've read. It was disturbing, incredibly disturbing. There are few books that can actually shake and unsettle me as much as this has, and at the same time, in its own way, it's bittersweet. It wormed its way into my brain and tugged at some very deep feelings, the feelings that I don't usually allow to come to the surface or even let out at all. And, considering I'd read this right after "Twittering from the Circus of the Dead", it's no wonder that I stayed up until almost six in the morning and didn't fall asleep until almost seven with all these thoughts whirling around in my brain. 

I'm drifting again. Allow me to get to the point.

           "Clockwork Girl" is a novella by Athena Villaverde. Villaverde is a fairly recent addition to the Bizarro literary scene. Her work appears in The Bizarro Starter Kit: Purple, she's written one novel titled Starfish Girl (canny readers may notice a naming trend), and wrote a collection with "Clockwork Girl" as the titular story. The novella follows a sentient clockwork girl named Pichi from her first memories on Christmas Day all the way through her life. Pichi is given as a present to Marisol, the young girl of a rich family. At first, Marisol is reluctant to receive such a gift, as Pichi was formerly a poor child whose body was replaced with clockwork and turned into a sentient toy, but eventually she comes around and introduces Pichi to her toyroom. The early parts of the story detail Marisol and Pichi as they play hide-and-seek, paint the walls of the playroom, play with Marisol's clockwork dog named Maki, and do other wonderful childhood activities. As the story goes on, Pichi develops a deep and abiding love for Marisol.

But here's the thing. Children grow up. Toys do not. And when children grow up, some of them outgrow their toys. 

               So from Pichi's point of view, we see Marisol grow more distant, and drift away from her and away from the playroom. And if the story ended there, it would be absolutely heartbreaking. But it gets worse. All from Pichi's point of view. As she tries to desperately hold on until Marisol comes home from college. As she has to find someone to wind her so she won't die. As she endures the family, who all treat her not as a little girl, not as a playmate, but as a toy to be played with and thrown away. It's the emotional equivalent of torture porn. 

              What makes it wrenching is that it's easy to understand, but hard to fight. Everyone grows out of their childhood affectations at some point or another, and it's something we accept. It's a part of life. But from this point of view, it's horrifying to think of such a thing. And Villaverde makes it very vivid and packs every parargaph full of enough detail to have made me feel like I've been punched. What makes this book good, what makes it dangerous, is the way it plays with your empathy. The opening passages are lyrical and sweet, sort of like a twisted version of Winnie-the-Pooh. The dark hints creep in slowly, and before you know it, the rug's been pulled out from under you, and all that's left until the last two or three chapters is a long tunnel of despair with only the briefest light. I am incapable of tears*, but trying to empathize with Pichi made me hurt. I wanted to rescue her, but I realized everyone does the same thing,

             We all grow up. We get older. Some of us manage to hold on to the accouterments of childhood, and others of us shed them without a second thought. The toys we discard we give no second thought to, importance of them notwithstanding. Athena Villaverde has basically taken this and weaponized it. With her vivid descriptions and brutally optimistic internal monologue, she made me feel sad for growing up.

              I suppose I should tell you at the end of this all that there's a happy ending. By that point, you've been so violated in your sense of empathy it's like watching a train wreck and then finding a buck on the sidewalk-- it's nice, but it doesn't erase the horror that came before it. 

               So in the end, I can't recommend this. It's like "The Little Match Girl" on steroids. This is the most remarkable and amazing thing I've read this year, but it left me disturbed and upset and practically hollowed out. So I can't recommend it. But if you find it, if you read it, I will tell you this: It's very, very good. I just don't want to ever read it again. 


The Geek Rage/Strange Library Book of the Year is revealed


Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

Profile Image for claundici.
221 reviews26 followers
August 3, 2017
The first two stories are whimsical, but overall unsurprising. The third, on the other hand, is a shiny little gift of imagination and charm at the end of a forgettable journey.
Profile Image for Jeremy Maddux.
Author 5 books136 followers
June 30, 2013
Clockwork Girl by Athena Villaverde was so much more than I expected going in! A collection of 3 profound fables focusing on women with extraordinary abilities and physical attributes.

Caterpillar Girl is awkward and infatuated with Lilith, a girl full of venom and possessing the good looks Cat envies.

The title story, Clockwork Girl, is about a 'tick-tock', a wind-up girl who is treated as a toy for a young girl. When the girl grows tired of her toy, Pichi the Clockwork Girl has to learn to survive on her own with no one to wind her.

Beehive Girl does well to avoid the most obvious choice in storytelling tactics. It could have been about a girl whose pores emit honey and angry bees, and how they always end up hurting those she loves, and make her afraid to get too close to anyone. Athena took it in a completely different direction, instead centering the story on a community of milongueras, or male tango dancers, all attempting to seduce the beehive girl of the title, whose bees erupt from her and sting whoever gets nervous or misses a step while dancing with her.
Profile Image for Teresa.
209 reviews13 followers
July 21, 2014
Soooo, this isn't my 'real' review; just a quick blurb to tell you all how incredibly amazing this book was! It was completely different from anything I've read before, complete with lots of emotion and love stories. Bizarro love stories? I know, it sounds weird, but Villaverde is a queen of words. If you've been thinking about reading this one, stop thinking already and READ IT!!! NOT TO BE MISSED!!!
Profile Image for Samantha Hawkins.
344 reviews36 followers
July 13, 2022
"Clockwork Girl" by Athena Villaverde

This collection was recommended to me by Carlton Mellick III and it reminded me thoroughly of his own work. I was really impressed by all of the stories, even finding myself quite empathetic to the feelings and treatment of Clockwork Girl. The descriptions are fantastic and the stories were original and they all appealed to the young weird girl still inside of me. This book was wonky and outlandish and totally amazing. 5 🌟
Profile Image for Melanie Catchpole.
108 reviews7 followers
November 5, 2014
3 Really lovely stories. All three are about a love/desire for someone. The endings were not predictable and was happy with how they ended. I think my favourite out of the three was Caterpillar girl (just noticed a typo on the back cover hehe) the story was interesting and fun and really did like the ending to that one.
Profile Image for Alexander Beresford.
Author 2 books40 followers
April 3, 2012
I like Athena's writing style, beautiful creativity, great little book, really enjoyed it. Will be on the lookout for more of her stuff.
Profile Image for Jesse Bullington.
Author 41 books319 followers
December 29, 2014
Rich, raw triptych of longing, loss, and heartbreak. And Tango. And goth insect girls. Let's make that five stars.
Profile Image for Kit.
706 reviews55 followers
February 14, 2015
Enjoyed this a lot more than Starfish Girl! Good plots and better writing!
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews

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