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Screaming Divas Hardcover – May 18, 2014
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The Amazon Book Review
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From School Library Journal
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
"A novel for the Riot Grrrl in all of us." -- MTV.com
"Kamata's sensitive, restrained prose shines." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Valuable and worthwhile...the novel's frank and judgment free treatment of somany touchy subjects would likely make great fodder for future iterations of the[Girls Rock] camp here and across the country." -- Jasper Magazine
"Honest. Heartbreaking. Funny." -- Herbookthoughts
"Not only empowering, but cool." -- YAreads.com
"A novel full of laughs, heartbreak, and very strong characters." -- Booketeria
"an appealingly gritty novel...of feminine art, rage, andpain that will appeal to fans of Stephanie Kuehnert and Courtney Summers." -- In Bed With Books
"Author Suzanne Kamata's voice rings true from her own experiences...the coming-of-age story that is told is universal." - Boxx Magazine
"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
Top customer reviews
I especially appreciated the edgy honesty with which each of these girls is portrayed. There are some very bad parents here. It feels like these girls are on their own way too soon. They make wrong choices, are sometimes selfish, and learn the hard way that love is not all sunshine and roses or sex. Ultimately the screams of Screaming Divas echo their struggles with their dysfunctional families, sexuality, and love, in this moving and thought-provoking novel.
Trudy can't trust those closest to her, so she does everything in her power to push them away. Her mother, a former debutante/current hippie, is constantly finding new men to marry and other places to live. When Trudy acts up, she is sent to foster care. More than once. When Trudy's absent father shows up, she still pushes. On her own, she figures out that the only good constant in her life has been music.
Cassie's permanently scarred from a car accident that took her mother's life. Cassie loved doing pageants with her mom, performing in front of an audience. At home, it was a different story. Her continuously philandering father has driven her mother to drink, and after their latest fight, she gets behind the wheel and changes Cassie's life permanently.
Every minute of Harumi's life has been orchestrated by her mother. Her parents are Japanese immigrants, and Harumi thinks that they are expecting her to be what gets them accepted. All she does is practice her violin, and even her only friend, Esther, stops coming by. Harumi is never available. In New York City trying out for Julliard, Harumi is suddenly hit with this realization: for the rest of her life, she will be playing this violin in front of faceless people on stages just like the one where she stands. After she finishes playing, she smashes her beloved violin and vows to never play again.
Esther is lonely. Once her friend Harumi is no longer able to hang out with her, she spends a lot of her time alone. She thinks a lot, especially about Cassie. Esther is in love with Cassie, and writes her letters, albeit anonymously, almost every day. But Esther's family would never approve of her feelings toward another girl, so she won't even allow herself to think that it is possible.
Together, they make Screaming Divas. Each one of them is working out a difficult problem, but one more than the rest. And as the band starts to make a name for itself, tragedy strikes.
Whadja Think?: I read this book a few months ago, and really disliked it. All of the main characters seemed self-centered and depressing, and their problems multitudinous and dismal. I waited too long to write my review, so I re-read it.
Yesterday, I tweeted the question that basically said: what if a book you read is well-written and has issues that need to be talked about, but, as a reader, you just didn't like it? Someone tweeted back that he didn't trust a reviewer who had to like something. For me, it is much easier to apply this kind of thinking to a painting, not a book. Maybe it is because much more time is spent reading a book. While the painting should get you to feel things, even unpleasant things, a book goes deeper than that. It has to, especially when covering a topic that is horrible or disagreeable or that has no answer. In realistic fiction, the truth may not be enjoyable. The ending may not be tied up in a neat bow where we get to sigh and think: wow, that was tough, but everything turned out ok in the end.
So I am conflicted, sometimes, about how to review a book that is good writing with an interesting plot and deep questions. I don't want to say that I am not a fan of realistic fiction in YA, because that's not the truth. And really, I don't mind an unhappy ending sometimes. Maybe I just prefer a little more sunshine sprinkled in with my gravity.
To Read or Not To Read: Taking my review with a grain of salt, if realistic fiction is your thang, you'll be happy you read it. Otherwise, leave the salt out of it and decide for yourself.
Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata was published May 18, 2014 by Merit Press. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to Merit Press and the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary LGBTQ+
Ages: 15 and up
You Might Want to Know: Mature themes, including sex, drinking, smoking, drugs and profanity.