All I Ever Wanted By Kathy Valentine, 273 pgs.

Throughout All I Ever Wanted, Kathy Valentine is running. She’s raised by a single teenage mom without a strong sense of boundaries, drinks and smokes, gets messed up with much older men, and falls in love with playing guitar. She starts The Violators—among Austin’s first punk bands—and moves to Los Angeles to make it big. She finds fate in the bathroom of the Whisky A Go Go on Christmas night 1980: Charlotte Caffey from the Go-Go’s comes out of a stall and tells Kathy that the band needs a fill-in bass player for a string of shows. Does she want to audition?

The answer, of course, is yes. And the running continues: The Go-Go’s sign to indie label IRS, tour their debut album Beauty and the Beat, and become the first all-woman band to chart a number one album. The ride is great for Kathy, at least initially. She tours the world, plays shows to adoring fans, and gets massively fucked up on a regular basis. The latter is source of tension throughout All I Ever Wanted: Valentine spares no detail in discussing her upbringing, writing in graphic and heartbreaking fashion about her mom flying her to California for an abortion at age twelve, about the non-relationship with her dad. Despite all the success she has in the band, Valentine is in obvious pain and denial because of her past and bad habits. After the band’s initial success, the inevitable decline comes, with clashes of egos and lack of sales, leaving Valentine to try, unsuccessfully, to duplicate her past successes on her own.

The narrative arc for rock bios tends to follow one of a few trajectories. Dedicated fans of the genre won’t notice much deviance from the norm in this way. What they will notice is the artful way in which Valentine flips the script: she’s running. But it turns out that she’s not running from something, but towards something. Specifically, towards recovery. The honesty and bravery that permeate All I Ever Wanted transcend genre conventions of normal rock bios. It’s a hell of a debut, and a harbinger of greatness to come. –Michael T. Fournier (University of Texas Press, utexaspress.com)