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 Cassie–the long-time object of her unrequited love–and 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.
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Trudy got her hands on a guitar. Actually, it was her father’s guitar, the one he’d played in his band. The instrument had a history of smoky bars, fields of wild flowers, park benches, Greyhound buses. It had been all over the place, probably even Dahomey.
She was going to ask to borrow it, but when she dropped by Jack’s apartment, he wasn’t home. Trudy decided to cart the guitar off anyhow. He never played it any more and besides, he might say no if she asked him to loan it to her. He didn’t trust her so much since all the trouble with Adam.
She’d practice and innovate and turn herself into a brilliant performer. And then she’d start a band. It would be the most exciting thing to hit the town since General Sherman. Yeah, these were good thoughts.
By day, she practiced. By night, she hung out at The Cave, playing records or slamming on the dance floor. During breaks, she looked for musicians in the Pink Room.
“Hey, Maddy. I’m starting a band. Wanna join up?”
Her roommate Madeline tossed a lock of black hair out of her eyes. “You must be out of your mind.”
Trudy shrugged. She asked Jeff, the David Bowie lookalike. She even asked Johnny Fad. People laughed, blew smoke in her face. Sometimes they just turned away as if they hadn’t heard her at all.
Why did everyone treat her proposition like some sort of joke? She was as serious as she’d ever been. The more she practiced, the more she knew that her dreams lay in music. She closed her eyes and saw herself on the stage, crooning into a mike while a huge crowd lit and lofted their Bics in tribute.
When people were drinking and dancing, they weren’t in the mood for serious talk. She had to find another way to put her band together.
Trudy made a flyer with scissors and magazines and Elmer’s glue. When she was finally satisfied with her work, she rode her housemate’s rickety bicycle to Kinko’s and made a hundred copies. Then she ran around Five Points with a staple gun and plastered them to every telephone pole in sight. When she was finished, she went back to the apartment, picked up her guitar, and waited for the phone to ring.
“Hey, what’s this?” Madeline barged into her room just after midnight, smelling of booze and smoke. She waved one of Trudy’s flyers in the air between them.
“I’m starting a band,” Trudy said. “I told you already.”
Madeline shrugged. “Yeah, whatever. I wish you hadn’t put our phone number down, though. We’ll get half a million calls from creeps.”
Trudy didn’t answer. Why was Madeline being such a bitch? She looked really cool with her tattooed shoulder and asymmetrical haircut, but sometimes she could be totally square.
“I’ll get my dad to buy us an answering machine,” Trudy said. “That way we can screen calls.”
Madeline nodded, seemingly consoled, and wandered off to her room.
Trudy giggled softly. Jack would never fork out cash for something like that, but the lie had worked.
The first call came at noon the next day.
“Hey, I’m calling about the band,” a gravelly voice said.
“What do you play?”
“Bass, drums, whatever. I’m versatile. Hey, wait. You sound really familiar. What’s your name?”
“Hey, I know you. You’re that firestarter.” The line went dead.
Later, Southern Bell called about an overdue phone bill. The manager at Yesterday’s, where Madeline waited tables, called asking Madeline to report to work early. Someone dialed a wrong number.
Where were all the budding musicians, the soulmates in tune with her dreams? Trudy set aside her guitar and put on some music. She threw herself on the bed and let Patti Smith comfort her.
How was she ever going to start a band?
Maybe she could go solo – set up a drum machine and play the guitar herself. She wracked her brains trying to come up with someone who’d gotten famous without back-up. Her mind went blank.
Two nights later, when she came home from a trip to the Quick Mart down the street, Madeline greeted her with, “You got a phone call. Someone wants to join your band.”
“Great. Who?” She pictured a pale, black-haired guy in leather, a guitar strapped across his hard-muscled body.
“I dunno. She said she’d call back.”
She? Well, okay. This could be good. A girl group. Yeah, that’s the ticket. They’d be like the Supremes with instruments. The Gogo’s with attitude. It would be a good gimmick, something to get them started while they developed as a band.
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Screaming-Divas-Suzanne-Kamata/9781440572791
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. Her YA debut, Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible was named the 2013-2014 APALA YA Honor Book and Grand Prize Winner of the Paris Book Festival. For more info, visithttp://www.suzannekamata.com or follow her on Twitter @shikokusue.