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.