The Savage Girl, Alex Shakar's first novel, is a bizarre literary work. Though the story appears to take place in the present, it is obvious that in some parallel future is where everything unfolds. But we're not talking science fiction with space ships and aliens. The setting, Middle City, sounds a lot like New York or Chicago, except for the fact that the city is built down the side of a volcano. Is that relevant to the story? No. It just gives the entire novel a surreal and enjoyably creative flavor. The Savage Girl is dark, raw, and full of irony.
Chas Lacouture is the founder of Tomorrow Ltd., working out of the largest building in the city, which provides the best view of the area (perhaps because it has been built on the rim of the volcano). The company specializes in trendspotting. His employees go out into the supermarkets and nightclubs and all over the city trying to figure out what the next big fad is going to be, and then sell the information to companies in order to exploit the public.
Ivy Van Urden was a successful fashion model, and Chas' lover. Her attempted suicide gets loads of media attention, and (prior to the beginning of the story) the mentally troubled woman is committed. Her sister, Ursula, who always wanted to be an artist, arrives to take care of her -- only to wind up working for Chas as a trendspotter.
Ursula, Chas and the poetic and off-the-wall Javier believe they have spotted the next big trend. Diet water. Why not? Dieters drink lots of water, but it leaves them feeling bloated. The new diet water product will allow water to pass even more quickly through the system. The idea is a sure-thing investment.
It is Ursula's stumbling on a savage girl in the park that starts the story moving. The little thing is dirty and silent and dressed in moccasins. When she shows the sketch to Chas, the ideas begin. The campaign is underway. But how far will Chas go to get what he needs in order to ensure the success of the next trend?
Chas promises to use Ivy as the model to market the product, but Ivy is off in a world of her own, perhaps too far gone to comprehend what is happening, or trapped by past events that keep her mind off-kilter. Ivy is looking for fame as a wild and unruly star on an X-rated website. Chas is looking for more money, and Ursula, feeling like she might be losing her own mind, wants everything just to be right in the world.
The Savage Girl is brilliant, entertaining and disturbingly insightful. It examines and dissects products exposing double-(marketing)-meanings, like stick salami, Muzak and ice cream in a cone. Well-defined and fantastically illustrated characters and setting gives this novel the extra push to make it a memorable and fast read.