A shark attack, a starlet in hiding, a mysterious black box. The opening pages of Stephen Stark's The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door have all the makings of a Hollywood page turner, but the novel's style places the author in a far more literary league.
...The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door touches on a wide range of topics -- show business, fame, predestination, love, reality, lucid dreaming, and standup comedy, to name just a few. To tackle these subjects, Stark offers the reader Ellen Gregory, a thirty-something standup comic turned TV superstar whose recent run-in with a murderous stalker leaves her questioning everything about the world she's grown used to...
Ellen's Hollywood narrative alone would certainly provide enough material for a provocative examination of fame and its trappings, but Ellen falls for a computer programmer whose experiments have opened a doorway into a ... dimension that isn't quite real but is, in some ways, more real than real. When Michael falls prey to a vicious attack, Ellen's world turns upside down, and her entire world -- not to mention her sense of self -- goes up for grabs.
Stylistically, Stark's writing evokes a diverse range of contemporary authors. From the more "literary" camp, there's Jennifer Egan and Don DeLillo, while the elements of science-fiction present in the novel call to mind William Gibson's interest in virtual reality and Jamil Nasir's examination of lucid dreaming in The Houses of Time. Complex, ambitious, and genre-bending, The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door is a philosophical page turner that dares to ask what it means to really know someone.
-Review by Marc Schuster