At sixteen, Trudy Baxter is fed up 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.
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) -- Kirkus Reviews