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The book that I’m reviewing today has been hailed as being “perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Jane the Virgin” and since I love both, you know I jumped at the chance to read this one. It’s a YA set in Miami with own voices Latinx representation and I really enjoyed it. Without further ado, here’s my book review of Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira.
Many thanks to Harper360 for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Once Upon a Quinceañera
by Monica Gomez-Hira
Date of Publication: 2nd March 2021
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: eBook (432 pages)
Racism, slut shaming, some profanity, some light sexual content (nothing explicit)
Carmen Aguilar just wants to make her happily ever after come true. Except apparently “happily ever after” for Carmen involves being stuck in an unpaid summer internship! All she has to do is perform! In a ball gown! During the summer. In Miami.
Fine. Except that Carmen’s company is hired for her spoiled cousin Ariana’s over the top quinceañera.
And of course, her new dance partner at work is none other than Mauro Reyes, Carmen’s most deeply regrettable ex.
If Carmen is going to move into the future she wants, she needs to leave the past behind. And if she can manage dancing in the blistering heat, fending off Mauro’s texts, and stopping Ariana from ruining her own quinceañera Carmen might just get that happily ever after after all.
Once Upon a Quinceañera is the contemporary YA novel that I didn’t know I needed. It’s realistic. The characters are fantastic. There are some really sweet moments and also some heartbreaking ones. (I genuinely cried!) It carries an important message about letting go of expectations and taking risks in life. And it’s own voices Latinx representation which is something I absolutely love to read. (Also it’s not as princess-y as you might expect from the synopsis alone – which is a good thing!)
Our main character, Carmen, has more than a handful of conflicts to deal with over the course of the book. There’s drama between her family and her aunt’s family. She’s processing the absence of her father and what that says about her. Her ex is her new co-worker and who knows where she stands with her latest crush?! Then there’s the tiny matter of “the future”. College isn’t something her family can afford to pay for and her previous internship, doing something she was passionate about, ended in criticism and sexual harassment. So she’s left not knowing what she wants to do with her life. And of course, her Latinx heritage comes in to play. Carmen faces daily microaggressions. And it’s just a lot for an 18 year old to handle.
Since there’s a lot going on in Carmen’s life, it is a bit of a slow burn. I loved the way the story played out but felt that the resolution part took too long. This meant that it was a little rushed towards the end. Was it satisfying, though? Hell yes. It was fantastic to see Carmen break down all of her walls and find herself in the process.
I also loved the way that it presented the concept of how other people’s narratives of us and shared experiences not lining up with our own narratives. This is a lesson that has taken me far too long to learn – and am still learning!
So yeah, I really enjoyed this book but I wish that Carmen had evolved just a little bit faster.
As this is such a character driven book, I wanted to take a second to talk about some of my thoughts about the characters in more detail. So here I go…
At the centre of the story is Carmen. Now, I loved Carmen so much! I think she perfectly captured the vulnerability of being on the cusp of adulthood, dealing with more than feels humanly possible. She was super relatable to me. That said, I worry she’ll come across as unlikeable to other readers due to her bitterness and/or stubbornness to change or believe others are capable of change. But I really connected with that aspect of her character. I could see vulnerabilities that I, myself, had as a teenager and while that was a lifetime ago, some of those wounds still hurt sometimes.
As for Mauro (Carmen’s ex) and Ariana (Carmen’s cousin), I did not trust these two characters at all. Even when they were saying and doing all the right things, I was keeping them at arm’s length. Just like Carmen, I was waiting for the shoe to drop. For something to go wrong and for one, or both of them, to be to blame.
I also loved Waverly and Carmen’s mum. These characters were both incredibly refreshing and authentic so it made a lot of sense that these would be the two people that Carmen trusts the most.
Read This If You…
- Want to read more own voices Latinx representation
- Need some escapism (set in Miami)
- Love coming-of-age and light romance in your contemporary YA novels
Does Once Upon a Quinceañera appeal to you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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