New York City are you ready for the Divine Divas? Because these teenage gospel music sensations are ready for you!
Veronique wants to be a star just as much as her fellow Divas do, but there's more to it than just fame for her. Unlike her middle-class friends at Holy Cross Prep, Veronique is there on scholarship, and if she wins a recording contract, she can move her mother and brothers out of their crummy apartment.
But Veronique has another dream that's hers alone. She longs to meet her dad, who disappeared to New York when she was just a baby. Could going to the Big A with the other Divas be Veronique's big chance to find him? Veronique knows she'll have to do some legwork on her own, though, so she turns to the internet for help. While it seems like a miracle when she gets a response, her friends aren't so sure. Is Veronique putting herself in danger, just when the Divas are on the brink of really making it big? And will her faith and her friends be enough to keep her safe?
About the Author
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: Greed; Envy; Lust; The Ex Files; Lady Jasmine; The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil; and Stand Your Ground, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of nine African American Literary Awards for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a four-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.
Read an Excerpt
My whole life is over!
I know I sound all over-the-top dramatic like my girl Diamond, but I can't help it. I'm still walking around in a crazy funk because everything I've dreamed about all my life is now...so...over.
It's been more than a week and I still can't believe it. We lost! The Divine Divas lost the Glory 2 God talent contest in San Francisco. Can you even believe it? I don't know if we came in second or third or last. It doesn't even matter we didn't come in first, and that means that we aren't going to be getting on any kind of airplane going anywhere near the NYC.
New York that was my real dream. Everyone thought that I just wanted to be a star. Well, duh! I mean, for real who wouldn't want to get a phat contract and cut lots of tracks? That $250,000 recording deal sounded real good to me, 'cause then I would've been able to help my mama move me and my brothers out of this run-down apartment building. But even though I was feelin' the bucks, what I wanted more than the Benjamins was that trip to New York.
And that had been all part of my plan.
Last week at this time, Diamond, Aaliyah, and I were flying to San Francisco. And then, later on, we hooked up with India. We were supposed to get on that stage with guns blazing and smoke the competition.
But it didn't happen.
Just thinking about how we lost gave me a headache. I guess that was why it took me forever to walk home from the bus stop, and longer than forever to walk up the stairs to the third floor. I guess losing just made you tired.
Reaching for something in the distance So close you can almost taste it...
I snatched the plugs from my MP3 player out of my ears and turned off my all-time favorite song. Natasha Bedingfield may have been the one blowin', but her words were all about me. With the Divine Divas, I was so close, but now it was all so far away.
I took my key out of my pocket. And then the moment I put it in the lock, every single solitary thought I had about the Divine Divas, New York, and Natasha left my mind. My apartment door swung open, and I'm telling you, I was scared straight. No one was supposed to be here. Mama was still at work. And D'Andre, D'Angelo, D'Marcus, and D'Wight were still with our grandmother. Big Mama never brought them home until around six. So I just knew there was some kind of burglar in our house.
But then I saw who it was and I wasn't scared anymore. I was just mad.
"Well, well, well!" D'Wayne grinned at me with a toothpick stuck in between his two big buck front teeth. "If it isn't the star herself. How ya doing, Lil' Mama?"
"My name is Veronique," I growled at him.
"Don't you think I know what your name is?" He was looking at me with his eyes all wide. It made me want to barf all over him. "But I like calling you Lil' Mama."
I didn't care what he liked calling me. All I wanted to know was what he was doing in my house. "Why are you here?" Even though it wasn't all that warm outside, I stayed in the hallway, not wanting to step one foot into my own apartment not as long as D'Wayne was there.
"Who do you think you are asking me that?" His grin was all the way gone, and he screwed up his face like he was eating something nasty. "You're not grown. What would your mama say?"
I hoped my mama would say that he needed to get up out of our house. But I had a bad feeling that she wouldn't say that. Mama was probably the reason why big-tooth D'Wayne was in our apartment.
"I don't need to be answering your questions," he said as I slowly walked past him. "You don't pay no bills around here." D'Wayne closed the door and just had to add, "But if you need to know something, it's that I'm gonna be here a lot from now on. Your mama and I are back together."
I rolled my eyes, but I didn't let D'Wayne see me. And he didn't hear the voice in my head either. The voice that said he was nothing but a lying fool.
He followed me into the kitchen and kept right on talking. "Your mama and I are getting married."
Yeah, right, I talked inside my head again. I wasn't even a little bit worried. D'Wayne was always saying that. Ever since I was about six or seven years old, he'd come around and tell Mama he wanted to get married. Sometimes he would stay with us for a long time. But then it always went down the same way one day I'd wake up and he'd be gone. And Mama would be crying. And then not too long after that, Mama would have a baby.
I might be only fifteen years old, but I peeped D'Wayne a long time ago. The thing was, I couldn't figure out why my mom hadn't. I just hoped that this time, my mama didn't end up having another baby. Not that I didn't love my little brothers to Reese's pieces, but four knuckleheads were way more than enough for me.
"So now that I'm gonna marry your mama..."
Dude, why are you still talking to me?
"I'm gonna be your daddy!"
I stopped all that talking inside my head and turned around so fast I almost fell over. "You will never be my daddy!" I screamed.
I ran straight to my bedroom and slammed the door. I knew that if my mother was home, she'd come after me for dissin' D'Wayne like that, but I didn't care. I threw my backpack on the floor so hard it felt like my whole room shook.
How could he say something so stupid to me? That man made me crazy-sick. He would never be my daddy. I already had a father, and I didn't need a broke-down one like D'Wayne.
I bounced so hard on my bed that the legs wobbled like the whole thing was about to fall apart. That would've been some mad mess. If I broke this bed, my mother would have a fit. So I backed up a bit, closed my eyes, and tried not to think about that man outside my room.
Instead, I thought about another man, a really handsome one. With a bald head and a little bit of a beard.
Of course the man was tall, like Diamond's father. He had smooth, Hershey chocolate-colored skin, like Aaliyah's father. And he had lots of muscles, like India's father. He was strong, and he could whip D'Wayne's big ole butt any time he wanted.
I laughed out loud just thinking about my daddy beating down D'Wayne, but I didn't laugh for long. Thinking about my father always made me feel happy and sad at the same time.
Pushing up off the bed, I sat at my keyboard. Even though I tried to make up a new song every day, today I didn't feel like playing a thing.
I stood and pressed my nose against the tiny window. It was hard to see anything through the dirt from the outside that made the glass always so murky, but I could see clear down into the alley. Since the garbage had been picked up this morning, the alleyway was empty. No cats or rats or addicts hunting for their dinner through the trash. And right now, it didn't stink like it always did. It might have been fine now, but by tomorrow, everything would be back to ghetto-normal.
I bounced on my bed, lay down, and closed my eyes. I went right back to thinking about my daddy and him coming to take me away from this crazy mess. In my head, I could almost see my father even though I couldn't remember ever seeing him in person. All I had were those old, faded-out pictures hanging on my wall of my mother and father back in the day.
But I had the best picture of my father in my mind. Just like Diamond looked like her dad, I was sure I looked just like mine.
I knew for sure what my dad sounded like. And what he would say to me the first time he saw me. "Baby girl, I've been looking for you forever. But now that you found me, I promise we'll always be together." And then he would hug me for a long time, before he said something awesome like, "I love you."
I just had to find a way to get to my dad now that the Divine Diva plan was a bust. I had to find a way to get to New York and when I got there, I would find my daddy. Trust and know. Copyright © 2009 by Victoria Christopher Murray
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for VERONIQUE by Victoria Christopher Murray includes 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.
1. Even though she doesn’t even remember him, Veronique misses her father desperately. What does he represent to her? What do you think she’s really yearning for when she dreams of finding him?
2. Veronique frequently feels that the Divas wouldn’t hang out with her if they knew what her life was really like. Compare and contrast Vee’s “ghetto-normal” life with the lives of the other Divas. Do you think her feelings are based on reality or are they self-imposed? Give examples from the novel to support your opinion.
3. If you’ve read the previous two novels in this series, how do you think the Divas have been changed by their experiences? In what ways do you see them responding differently to situations?
4. What does Big Mama mean when she tells Veronique that she has to “break the curse” on page 13? What other patterns do the characters struggle with in this novel, and how do they break out of them?
5. Why does Veronique feel that her mother doesn’t really love her the way she hopes her father will? Do you think she’s being fair to her mother? Why or why not?
6. Veronique and Diamond are thrilled when Mrs. Silver first contacts them with an offer to help Vee find her father. But despite her excitement, Vee also knows that she will get into trouble if anyone finds out what she’s up to. What is it that keeps Vee from telling anyone about her plan? Are secrets ever okay to keep? Which should you tell, and how do you know who to tell?
7. What clues are there that Abigail Silver is interested in more than just helping Veronique find her father? Despite her insistence that she can “spot a fake a mile away” (page 66), why doesn’t Vee pick up on these clues?
8. Similarly, there are other moments throughout this novel where Veronique doesn’t see the obvious. Identify these situations and explain why her “street smarts” fail her in these instances.
9. Veronique, Aaliyah, and India all discuss music that is degrading to women, arguing that “Black people need to listen to and think about what they’re singing, rather than just going along because they like the beat.” (page 96). Do you agree or disagree? Explain your opinion.
10. Big Mama tells Vee that she should count her blessings because she has a good life and opportunities that other girls in the neighborhood don’t have. Similarly, Pastor Ford advises Vee to “focus on the blessings, not the burdens” (page 233). What does this really mean?
11. Like most teenagers, the Divas are anxious to prove how savvy they are now that they’re turning sixteen and are officially young adults. What safety rules does Veronique violate in her haste to finally find and meet her father? Identify which other characters in the novel ignore safety rules and other warning signs, and discuss the motivations that cloud their vision. Using examples from the novel, explain how misplaced confidence can interfere with good judgment.
12. What do you think the author will write about in the next and final book in the Divas series? What clues are hiding in this novel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Veronique often feels depressed about her life, especially when she compares her family and living situation to the lives of the other Divas. But Big Mama and Pastor Ford remind her to focus on the blessings in her life, rather than the burdens, so she can really see how much she has to be grateful for. Try making a list of the blessings in your life and see how it makes you feel. Practice this exercise any time you feel down about something, or even every morning as a way to set your frame of mind for the day. Share your experiences with your Book Club at your next meeting.
2. The Divas often learn the hard way that they may be young adults, but that doesn’t mean they can handle everything by themselves. Sometimes they need their parents, and Pastor Ford reminds them constantly that they can and should turn to God, too. Share a story with your Book Club about a time when you thought you could handle something big on your own, and what made you finally realize that you couldn’t. When do you turn to God for help? Do you pray on a regular basis? Why or why not?
3. Take some time to visit and browse the official Divas websites at www.thedivinedivas.com and www.myspace.com/divinedivaseries_2008. You can also read the author’s blog at www.myspace.com/victoriachristophermurray. Come to your next Book Club meeting prepared to discuss how the internet allows authors to bring the world of their novels to life, and how this author’s personal thoughts have or haven’t affected your experience reading her novels.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I hate how they have every book exect india. It kills me to read a story but skip over one of the book in the series.
i like this book:)