"Another book in which girls are in the band and not with it, this is a novel for the Riot Grrrl in all of us." MTV.com
The Screaming Divasby Suzanne Kamata
At sixteen, Trudy Baxter is tired of her debutante mom, her deadbeat dad, and her standing reservation at the juvenile detention center. Changing her name to Trudy Sin, she cranks up her major chops as a singer and starts a band, gathering around other girls ill at ease in their own lives. Cassie Haywood, would-have-been beauty queen, was scarred in an accident in
At sixteen, Trudy Baxter is tired of her debutante mom, her deadbeat dad, and her standing reservation at the juvenile detention center. Changing her name to Trudy Sin, she cranks up her major chops as a singer and starts a band, gathering around other girls ill at ease in their own lives. Cassie Haywood, would-have-been beauty queen, was scarred in an accident in which her alcoholic mom was killed. But she can still sing and play her guitar, even though she seeks way too much relief from the pain in her body and her heart through drugs, and way too much relief from loneliness through casual sex. Still, it's Cassie who hears former child prodigy Harumi Yokoyama playing in a punk band at a party, and enlists her, outraging Harumi's overbearing first-generation Japanese parents. The fourth member is Esther Shealy, who joins as a drummer in order to be close to Cassiethe long-time object of her unrequited loveand Harumi, her estranged childhood friend. Together, they are Screaming Divas, and they're quickly swept up as a local sensation. Then, just as they are about to achieve their rock-girl dreams, a tragedy strikes.
Gr 10 Up—A contemporary coming-of-age novel that focuses on music, sex, and drugs, told from the points of view of four teenage girls who are all searching for something. Trudy, Cassandra, Harumi, and Esther come from different walks of life. Trudy is no stranger to juvenile detention, and finds herself kicked out of both of her parents' homes. Cassandra is a former beauty queen with an ugly scar and a newfound addiction to heroine. Harumi is a violin prodigy with overbearing Japanese parents, and Esther is a confused teen struggling with her sexuality. The four of them come together to form a band called the Screaming Divas that is in desperate need of practice. But as the girls get better and the band becomes more popular, Cassandra falls deeper into her addiction, and after an argument with Trudy, ends up dying from a drug overdose. While this is a relatively short book, the pacing is painfully slow. It isn't until halfway through the book that the group actually forms, and readers are unlikely to find the characters likable or believable. Unless teens are heavily invested in the rock and roll theme, they are unlikely to be hooked by this story that fails to perform.—Candyce Pruitt-Goddard, Hartford Public Library, CT
Rock music offers four teen girls a much-needed outlet and escape in mid-1980s South Carolina. The Screaming Divas are an unlikely ensemble. Brought together by Trudy, a magnet for trouble who is fresh out of juvie, the band also includes gorgeous Cassie, a former child-beauty-pageant queen; stoic Harumi, a classically trained violinist who had a meltdown at her Juilliard audition; and shy Esther, who harbors a secret crush on Cassie. The third-person narration rotates through the four members' viewpoints to show what attracts each girl to the group. Even as the Divas begin to enjoy modest success on Columbia's club scene, the girls' rebellious impulses lead them to take other risks, such as moving out of their parents' homes, experimenting with drugs, and starting romantic relationships with older men and women. At times, the novel feels more like a catalog of teen social issues than a coming-of-age story. Kamata's (Gadget Girl, 2013) sensitive, restrained prose shines during small character moments—like Cassie's fierce recitation of Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus" during English class—but dulls the impact and energy of the concert scenes. A strangely tame read despite all the sex, drugs and rock-'n'-roll. (Historical fiction. 14-17)
Meet the Author
Back in the day, Suzanne Kamata spent a lot of time hanging out in a club in Columbia, South Carolina, much like the one in Screaming Divas. (The beat goes on . . .) She later wrote about musicians for The State newspaper, The Japan Times, and other publications. Now, she mostly writes novels. In her free time, she enjoys searching for the perfect fake fur leopard-print coat and listening to the Japanese all-girl band Chatmonchy.
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I was really stoked to read this book. Having been a teen in the 80’s I had grown to love music from just about every musical genre out there, but my heart belongs to the 80’s pop, punk and alternative scenes. I love to watch movies that show how some of the groups got together, i.e. The Runaways or read books about how members of bands interacted with each other, i.e. “Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran.” Reading through the first quarter of the book, I could see the making of a band that would rival the best of the garage bands. The back stories of pain, curiosity, insecurities, revenge, heartache, etc. were there and waiting to be brought to the forefront. Unfortunately, the story itself didn’t give me the impact that I had hoped for. The chemistry of the girls just didn’t interweave the way it should have. Some of them, even having been through so much together, seemed like almost complete strangers. The lack of chemistry in turn made the story come out a bit flat and monotone. Another issue I had was that sometimes I wasn’t sure who had said or done what because there was a lack of distinction of which character it was. With this I’m talking about dialogue. Two people in the room but unsure of whom said the first line which means the whole conversation could go either way. An interesting book, an interesting look into the band scene, and an interesting look at lives that some would consider cookie cutter but are the complete opposite. The Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover totally represents Cassie. The Barbie girl looks, complete with the family that has gone through implosion after implosion, she is the one that I felt for the most in this book but who also took a wicked turn in her life that brought a different side of her out. The others seemed to have their fingers on their own fates and knew when it was time to turn their lives around. Anyone who is into the band scene, both the highs and lows of them, would appreciate this book and find themselves rereading it and reliving different stages in their own lives. I look forward to reading further books from this author.