Once Upon a Quinceañera

HarperTeen. Mar. 2021. 432p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062996831.
Gr 9 Up–When Carmen Aguilar starts her summer internship at Dreams Come True, she is dreading the long days ahead dressing up as a party princess. Quitting is not an option since she needs the internship to graduate high school, so she does her best to play the part. No matter how bad she expected it to be, she did not imagine that her ex-boyfriend, Mauro, would be one of her co-workers, and her dance partner. As if things couldn’t get worse, Carmen learns that the company has been hired by her younger cousin, Ariana, for her quinceañera. After a recent family argument left the two estranged, Carmen finds it almost impossible to face Ariana and her overpowering parents. As the Miami summer unrolls, Carmen struggles with her unresolved feelings toward Mauro, while also trying to handle the dysfunction that plagues her extended family. Gomez-Hira makes Miami come alive with her descriptions of clubs, sunsets, and Latinx culture. The characters, most of whom are Latin American, blend their culture into their dialogue, lending the book authenticity. Though there are times when the teenage romance drama seems a bit overdone, many readers will likely enjoy the emotional outbursts and over-the-top passion. The scenes between Carmen and Mauro, a few of which contain sexual content, often are cliched, but readers looking for mushy sweet talk won’t mind.
VERDICT A charming novel that will appeal to teens looking for a love story.

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