Once Upon a Quinceanera by Monica Gomez-Hira
Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks
Contemporary teen romance
High school senior Carmencita “Carmen” Aguilar is suffering a cascade of consequences from a series of impulsive decisions. The terms of her penance include working an internship as a princess performer at Dreams Come True with her bestie Waverly. Carmen's diploma is the goal.
Many physical and emotional hurdles threaten to keep her from earning it. Messy cycles of recurring unhealthy family behavioral patterns, envy, betrayal, deceit, insecurities, and assorted other human frailties render a dynamic coming-of-age tale. Carmen’s voice rings with the authentic contradictions of a teenager whose thoughts, words, and actions swing with sometimes dizzying speed between childish impetuosity to wise discernment. Her vulnerability as she stumbles in a zigzag path toward adulthood resonates with present-day authenticity, as much as the entire cast of characters does. Abandonment issues, social media as an exponential amplifier of teen angst, high school popularity hierarchies, double standards about sexual virtue, and frictions between socioeconomic classes within families are smoothly interwoven story threads that strengthen the overall robust context of time and place.
In the 19th chapter Carmen thinks, “… but Miami…we saturate this place,” about Latinx culture in Florida. Rich saturation is what this talented author conveys to readers in terms of using unexpected spins on dreamers, fairy tales in general and “Beauty and the Beast” in particular to mix a sophisticated blend of growing pains, love-hate-love relationships, laugh aloud moments, and sharp sociopolitical commentary into a fun, thoughtful read for teens to adults. It's more telenovela with literary elements, than rom-com.
Published by Harper Teen, March 2, 2021