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The Savage Girl Hardcover – September 18, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066209870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066209876
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,288,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shakar's clever and provocative debut novel (following his short story collection, City in Love) is something of a genre-bender. Like certain SF tales, the story takes place in a futuristic present imperfect, where recognizable trends Internet voyeurism and ecotourism, for instance have morphed into their logical (or illogical) extremes, and even the setting, Middle City, is both familiar and fantastic. It's built on the slopes of a volcano, the most prestigious buildings situated on the volcano's rim; it even has a statue of God as well as of Manuel Noriega. Into this comic-book setting, full of vividly drawn, outsized characters, Shakar drops a perfectly normal heroine, Ursula Van Urden. Ursula, a would-be artist in her late 20s, has come to the city to look after her sister, Ivy, a model who very publicly tried to kill herself and has since been committed. She persuades Ivy's former boyfriend, Chas Lacouture, president and founder of Tomorrow Ltd., to hire her as a trend spotter, predicting fads so that savvy companies and advertising firms can exploit them. A homeless girl who hunts her own food and lives on the streets the savage girl becomes Ursula's first trend and the basis for a diet water (yes, diet water) marketing campaign. And Chas ensures that Ursula's schizophrenic sister becomes the product's spokesmodel. The plot then surges wildly ahead as deluded Ivy seeks boundless fame, Ursula seeks a decent life and Chas seeks his next fortune. What's best about this entertaining novel is the feast of ideas. Has too much irony been emitted into the earth's atmosphere? Is glamour a zero-sum game? Is there a paradoxical essence at the heart of every product? Who knows? But Shakar makes it fun to contemplate. National print and radio advertising; 6-city author tour. (Oct. 25)Forecast: The ultra-gloss anxieties of young urbanites are on fetching display in this clever debut, and city sales boosted by a six-city author tour and national print and radio advertising should be brisk.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-A dark novel of ideas that might be called "wickedly funny" if it didn't contain quite so much truth. The Savage Girl predicts a frighteningly empty future on the rise-one that is, literally, tomorrow, and is not unlike today. Ruled by advertising and in the hands of professional trend-spotters like protagonist Ursula, it is "The Dark Age: Lite," in which people flock to buy diet water and wear leather made to look like vinyl "fake leather." Ursula comes to MidCity to visit her recently institutionalized sister Ivy, a 21-year-old schizophrenic model who attempted suicide in public. She gets a job under Ivy's much-older boyfriend, Chas Lacouture, the head of a powerful trend-spotting firm, and spends her days in-line skating around town, taking notes on street fashion, and trying to "see the future." Transfixed by a homeless "savage girl" she spots wearing skins and hunting her own food, idealist Ursula envisions this look sparking a return to nature and purity and shows her sketches to Chas-only to watch him haul Ivy out of the hospital to become the spokesmodel for the savage look. Never mind that she speaks paranoid gibberish: "Schizophrenia is the Future!" Soon enough, to Ursula's horror, his prediction seems right on the money. So, incidentally, does Shakar's. One emerges from the novel feeling dragged through the murkiest depths of what it means to be human. The author's scalding observations will ring true with teens hip to the often-outrageous ways in which advertising molds us-and will provide the rudest, smartest awakening for those who are not.

Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

Alex Shakar's latest novel, Luminarium, won the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction. It was also named an Editor's Choice by The New York Times, a Notable Book by The Washington Post, and a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, The Austin Chronicle, and The Kansas City Star. His first novel, The Savage Girl, was named a New York Times Notable Book and has been translated into six foreign languages. His story collection, City In Love, won the FC2 National Fiction Competition. A native of Brooklyn, NY, he now lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Louis Tuck on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
In his first book, The Savage Girl, Alex Shakar tells the tale of four ambitious young adults attempting to conquer commercialism, and then redefine it. The main character Ursula Van Urden, breaks into the fashion industry by becoming a 'trendspotter'. Her first assignment leads her to 'the savage girl', a primitive, disgusting, and seemingly antithetical figure of commercial beauty. Ursula's discovery prompts the marketing campaign for a new product called "diet water," which soon becomes the epitome of commercial absurdity. In a humourous and thought provoking novel, Shakar explores such questions as:
Is advertising the motor behind society?
Has marketing and hype created a world where all our beliefs are based on fallacy?
Is there any real meaning in popular culture today, or is popular culture just a corporate strategm for encouraging people to spend money?
Alex Shakar creates four irresistibly intriguing characters who's attempt to conquer society's fashion engine, leads to some bizarre, yet plausible conclusions about society. The Savage Girl is a delightful and observant rebuttal of everything we think we know about the advertising industry. A ridiculously enticing book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "contactaroston" on October 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Trying to create an entire world between the covers is no easy task, but Mr. Shakar has managed it; "Savage Girl" is a fully-realized alternate universe, and perhaps it is a not-so-distant place. This is an earnest and noble "Novel of Ideas," steadily plotted and crisply written. The concepts raised will have you getting the book down from the shelf more than once. Highly recommended for the serious reader seeking something out of the ordinary.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Langendoen on September 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Alex Shakar's first novel is an amazing ride. Since it's often easiest to describe something (or someone) new in comparison to existing standards, let's try this: He has the descriptive prowess of a Tom Robbins; the pacing and complexity of Don DeLillo; the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To be sure, there are a couple of rough edges, but his surreal Middle City and the fabulous characters that live there are not to be missed.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Apple on October 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Using the fictional company Tomorrow Ltd, flat characters, and a few true marketing theories (including Ernest Dichter's ideas regarding propaganda,) Shakker exploits "american-style marketing" as a dark, sinister plot against culture. This is a glass-half-empty look at consumer motivation versus company's goals. After finishing the novel, one realizes the reason we continue to read it is the thought provoking and clever ideas Shakker offers throughout the novel. The book itself is not pulled together as a compelling read. Plot and character development are weak; however, those intrigued by social motivation will find themselves highlighting and dogearing a few pages.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Toby or not Toby on April 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Alex Shakar's first novel is an incredible (somewhat Pynchon-esqe) trip into a slightly alternate world - to a city just strange enough to separate it from any real city on earth, with high-rises on a volcano called the Black Tower, with a museum of Post-moden Art, and neighborhoods like Hipsterville. But it's a city with malls, parks, video arcades, Calvin Klein ads and very real people such as Shakar's protagnist, Ursula Van Urden, who has come to Mid City to take care of her sister, Ivy, a model who has just gone public with her suicide attempt. Ursula gets a job as a Trendspotter for Tommorrow, Ltd., working for Ivy's ex-boyfriend, Chas. Her job? To Find the Future. And bring it back to be used for marketing purposes.
Very much in line with DeLillo's White Noise, The Savage Girl exaggerates our current media and trend-obsessed world just the slightest amount necessary to make it both larger-than-true-life and eerily accurate. Chas explains to Ursula how to look for the "paradessence" of any item - the essential paradox of its promise to consumers. Coffee promises to be stimulating and relaxing. Ice cream promises to be a sinful treat and a trip to the innocence of our childhood. It's a dead-on picture of marketing and advertising that Shakar presents and the world, presented in sketches of the population and places of Mid City, as lively and diverse as New York or San Francisco.
The strength of the novel also lies in Shakar's remarkable characters who continue to surprise and grow throughout the book. I became genuinely attached to Javier, the wide-eyed prophet of The Light Age who rollerblades Ursula through the ropes of Trendpotting.
An intensely readable, remarkable book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JENNIFER benck on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the most enjoyable books I've read all year. To think, I was almost put-off by the 'science-fiction'angle. Shakar has an uncanny ability to bring the reader almost to the point of disgust with our human race, while maintaining an acute awareness of human tenderness and humor. In addition, and perhaps more to the point, it's quite a funny book. Looking forward to seeing more from this guy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on July 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This look at a fictional society in a fictional city is filled with unlikable characters doing unlikable things to take advantage of the unlikable lifestyle of the fictional world created by Shakar.

That being said, I kept turning the pages because of the draw of his created world that I wanted to believe would have no draw. I so wanted the light but dark (dark in light?) ways of the Middle City to explode rather than take control. I also wanted the characters to explode (figuratively, of course) rather than become the norm in this world of the not-so-distant past that could have been/could still be the future.

It may be only the result of chance that Shakar's world isn't the present. As we wander through his Consumerville, we can shake our collective heads and keep reading quickly so we don't ask ourselves about our own lives. It's easier to be critical of a created world that is a ramped up version of the overmarketing of everything.

Written in 2001, this is slightly dated. My memory isn't good enough to compare the details of his world with the one a decade ago. However, the "feel" of things is kind of spooky. Enough of this cautionary story is still applicable to today to make this a worthwhile take to read.

I am looking forward to reading his 2011 book "Luminarium".

Luminarium
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