Straight-A student and “brainiac” of the group, Aaliyah is an only child living with her father, the deputy Chief of Police in Los Angeles. Even though Aaliyah isn’t interested in singing, she’s shown a remarkable, natural talent since childhood. It takes a bit of persuading to get Aaliyah to be a part of the Divas, but she gives in, and joins the group to be close to her friends. During one of their rehearsals, the girls hear a song by Zena, a successful African American singer. All the other girls are inspired and imagine themselves being as successful one day—except for Aaliyah, who turns off the CD and grumbles that they can find a better role model. Then, when Aaliyah learns that Zena will be attending their performance—accompanied by her father—her whole world comes crashing down. And all of her friends, who’d been told that Aaliyah’s mother died when she was a baby, suddenly realize where her natural singing ability came from….
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Read an Excerpt
THE: DIVAS AALIYAH
I was about to have a straight-up heart attack!
For real—not one of those fake ones that my girl Diamond was always having. The way my heart was pounding inside my chest, I was gonna pass out for sure.
When I looked over at my girls, I could tell they felt the exact same way. My best friend for life, India, was standing so still, just grinning like she was in shock. And Veronique looked like she was going to faint from happiness, though I wasn’t sure if she was all excited about the Divine Divas or about Arjay Lennox, who had stayed right by her side ever since we ran off the stage.
The only one who was standing like this was no big deal was Diamond—our leader, or at least that’s what she thought. Yeah, Diamond was just standing with her arms folded—like she knew all along that the Divine Divas were going to make it to the finals of the Glory 2 God Teen Talent Search.
I mean, I had a lot of confidence, trust that. But no one in the world had more confidence than Diamond. It’s not that I didn’t think we could sing; every single one of my girls could carry at least half a tune. But when we started this whole thing back in September, I never would’ve believed that we would have made it all the way to the finals. All the way to Miami—South Beach, to be exact. We would be competing with four other groups.
But I wasn’t hardly worried—I knew for sure that my girls and I were going to shut this whole thing down. At the end, we were gonna be the ones with the recording contract.
Just thinking about that made my heart start crashing again. Could this really happen? Could the Divine Divas really get a $250,000 recording contract and move into the big time?
Not that I was sure that this was the way I wanted it to go down. I mean, I was into winning, don’t sleep. But I wasn’t about to give up any part of my dreams. No way. No matter what happened with my girls and the Divine Divas, in two years, I was going to Harvard. Trust that. And, I was going to become a nuclear physicist. You could bank on that, too. If we won this thing, we’d just have to find a way to work it out.
“Hey, what you doing over here all by yourself, Pretty Lady?”
I had to lean my head all the way back to look up at Troy. He was that tall and one of the Three Ys Men, who were our backup dancers. The way he was grinning in my face, I could tell he was as happy as we were. I guess this whole winning thing was as exciting for the guys as it was for us, even though we were the ones who were out front.
“I’m not doing anything.” I tried to shrug Troy off, but it was hard. I could tell by the way Troy had been looking at me ever since we got to New York that he kinda liked me, but I didn’t know for sure. It could’ve been that he just wanted to hang with me because his boys—Riley and Arjay—had already hooked up with India and Veronique.
But it didn’t matter—I liked Troy; I just didn’t like him like that. Not that I wasn’t into guys; I mean, Troy was major fine. But I had a plan for my life. And right about now, boys—even cute ones—just didn’t fit in.
“So, Aaliyah, ah—”
“Hey, baby girl!”
Whew! I was so glad my dad came over and interrupted Troy. I could tell he was going to do something like ask me if I wanted to go out with him when we got back to Los Angeles.
“Hey, Daddy,” I said, hugging my father. He was the only male I was into impressing right about now.
“I’m so proud of you,” my dad said. He looked at Troy and added, “I’m proud of all of you. You guys were fierce.”
“Daddy, nobody says fierce anymore.”
My dad frowned. “Nobody?”
I shook my head. “Only Diamond and Tyra.”
“Well, if it’s good enough for Diamond and Tyra, it’s good enough for me.”
Troy and I laughed with my dad, but then we stopped when Roberto Hamilton, the president of Glory 2 God Productions, came into the room where we were hanging out.
“Thank you for waiting,” Mr. Roberto said. “And congratulations, once again, to all of you.”
As Mr. Roberto looked around the room, I did, too. Even though we were in New York, this room was filled with people from our church in Los Angeles. Besides me and my girls, and the Three Ys Men and our parents (except for Veronique—her mom, Ms. Lena, never came to any of the competitions), there was Pastor Ford and her crew. And about twenty other people from Hope Chapel packing this place.
But when everybody was as happy as we were, it didn’t matter if we were standing so close it felt like we were in a club or something.
“Well.” Mr. Roberto’s voice made me turn back to him as he said, “We are at the final round. How do you feel?”
He was just talking to me and my girls, but a whole bunch of people answered, “Great,” “Just fine,” “All right!” as if they were the ones who had been doing all the singing.
Mr. Roberto laughed. “So, now that we’re here, we wanted to let you know just how seriously we’re taking this whole competition.”
I took a deep breath.
“We’re looking for the next big group.”
I couldn’t help but grin, and my girls were cheesin’, too.
“And on the G2G label, that means that we’re looking for young men and women who’ll be able to perform at the highest levels.”
Okay, I thought. That was certainly us. I mean, we were the Divine Divas. We were … fierce. I grinned as I thought about what I’d just told my father.
“Sometimes you’re going to have to perform under pressure, sometimes you’re going to have to perform on short notice, you’re going to have to perform with big names, all kinds of things.”
I wasn’t a nuclear physicist yet, but I didn’t have to be one to know that Mr. Roberto was building up to something big. I guess this competition really was straight serious now.
“So because of that, we’ve decided to give each of the remaining groups a mentor.”
Diamond was already clapping her hands like she knew what Mr. Roberto was talking about.
“You’re going to be working with someone who’s already been through all of this,” he continued.
“Oh, my God,” Diamond yelled out. She held her hand to her chest like she was going to have a heart attack.
Even though India and Veronique rolled their eyes while Diamond went all the way to her dramatic side, I couldn’t hate. I mean, five minutes ago I was having my own heart attack.
“I know who it is!” Diamond shouted out and raised her hand like we were in class or something. Now that was funny. ’Cause Diamond was in my chemistry class, and she never raised her hand for anything!
“You think you know?” Mr. Roberto grinned.
“Uh-huh!” Diamond nodded. “It’s … Yolanda Adams!” And then she snapped her fingers in the air like she had nailed it.
The way Mr. Roberto shook his head and Diamond pouted and frowned like she was confused made everybody laugh.
Mr. Roberto said, “I’m not going to stand here and make you guess. Let me introduce all of you to the mentor for the Divine Divas.” Then he stopped, like he was waiting for a drumroll.
He turned toward the door and I peeked around my dad. All kinds of people were going through my head: Beyoncé, Mariah … oh, oh, I know. I just loved Rihanna!
And then she walked into the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce … Zena!”
“Oh, my God!”
It was Diamond screaming, but now I was the one having a heart attack. For real!
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I pushed my hand against my chest, ’cause I was sure my heart was going to poke right through my skin.
Then, my knees … I don’t know what happened. But they got rubbery.
By the time I dropped to the floor, I couldn’t hear or see a thing.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Divas: Aaliyah includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Best friends Diamond, India, Veronique, and Aaliyah are fifteen- year-old high schools ophomores who make up the singing group The Divine Divas. When The Divas are selected to participate in a nationwide gospel talent search that is looking for the next great teen singing stars, Aaliyah reluctantly goes along with the group. Even though she is more focused on going to college to become a nuclear physicist than on becoming a singing star, her loyalty to her friends wins out over her personal desire. When the girls qualify for the finals, they discover that the talent search has set them up with a celebrity mentor who will perform with them. The rest of the group is thrilled to discover that their mentor will be Zena, the pop singing sensation and worldwide star. Aaliyah is not quite as excited, because what the rest of the group doesn’t know is that Zena is Aaliyah’s mother, who Aaliyah claimed was dead after she left her family to pursue her career. But what begins as the biggest challenge that Aaliyah has ever faced may just turn out to be a blessing in disguise for both Aaliyah and Zena.
Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think that Aaliyah told her best friends that her mother was dead, rather than the truth that she had left her and her father for a career? Even if she didn’t tell the entire group, why didn’t she tell India, who is her BFFL?
2. With all of the excitement that surrounds Zena, especially when everyone discovers that she is Aaliyah’s mother, why doesn’t Aaliyah enjoy having a superstar mother more? Would you enjoy it if your mother were a world-famous singer?
3. Why do you think Aaliyah doesn’t want to start a new relationship with Zena when she returns?
4. Why does Zena decide that now is the time to reappear in Aaliyah’s life? What is her motivation, and why now, when Aaliyah is turning sixteen?
5. When Aaliyah is trying to get Zena to stop being the celebrity mentor for The Divine Divas, why does her father refuse to help her make Zena quit the competition?
6. Aaliyah talks about “the Big S” for “suck it up.” What do you think are some of the lessons that she learns from doing things that she doesn’t want to do? How do you think her faith in God helps her?
7. Pastor Ford tells Aaliyah that this is an opportunity for her. In what ways do you think that this is true? What are her new opportunities?
8. Of all of Aaliyah’s friends, Diamond has the strongest “star-struck” reaction to Zena, which at times annoys Aaliyah. Do you think Diamond’s reaction is selfish? Is Aaliyah’s reaction to Diamond fair?
9. When Zena confesses to Aaliyah that she hates herself for leaving, Aaliyah admits to herself that she feels slightly bad. Why?
10. Even though Aaliyah told everyone her mother was dead, she bought Mother’s Day cards for Zena and kept them. Why do you think she did this?
11. Why do you think that Aaliyah is embarrassed by Zena’s luxurious lifestyle—the limousines, the outfits, etc.?
12. Aaliyah’s father tells her that “there were blessings in every situation.” What blessings does Aaliyah discover in hers?
13. Even though she initially declines it, Aaliyah eventually accepts the Range Rover that Zena buys her for her birthday. Why? Why, after accepting the Range Rover, does she then decline when Zena wants to purchase the expensive jeans for her?
14. When Zena invites Aaliyah to brunch, she doesn’t want to go alone and brings Troy along. Why is she still uncomfortable being alone with Zena?
15. On some level, do you feel Aaliyah has really loved Zena all along and just hasn’t realized it?
Enhance Your Book Club Discussion
1. Have a contest among your friends and fellow book club members. Set a time limit and see how many all-girl singing groups each of you can name. Decide on a prize, and whoever names the most groups wins.
2. There are various resources online for aspiring singers and songwriters. As part of your discussion, work with your friends and book club members to write your own song on a subject that is important to all of you.
3. Visit iTunes, Amazon, or your favorite online music store and create a playlist that you think fits the theme of the book and the personality of Aaliyah. If you come up with something great, make playlists for Diamond, India, and Veronique as well.
4. As one of the themes of Aaliyah is motherhood, ask your mother for one of her favorite recipes and then make it for the rest of the group.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love the singer aaliyah she the best singer ever.
Thios book was good but the others were more interesting and filled with drama. This one was more just secondary reading. Most likely I wouldnt reread it but its good only the first time. I need more though, so hopefully there is another book....