Book Review: Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira (ARC Copy)
Title: Once Upon a Quinceañera
Author: Monica Gomez-Hira
Released: March 02, 2021 (Paperback)
Note: I have received a physical copy from Harper Collins Children’s Books in exchange for a complete and honest review.
Description: Jenny Han meets “Jane the Virgin” in this flashy and fun Own Voices romcom from debut author Monica Gomez-Hira.
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 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.
Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click the “Read More”, it is under the assumption you either don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already read the book.
As the local black sheep, I understand exactly how Carmen Aguilar feels. I never had a quinceañera myself so I understand the frustration of watching others getting to be in the spotlight, even after it was so cruelly taken away. People can say that “it doesn’t matter what others think”, but when it’s your own family, life feels over before it can begin. That’s what assumptions could do to a person, especially in high school. It’s easy to say that high school doesn’t last forever if rumors don’t follow you on the way out.
And that’s what nearly happened to Carmen.
For those who aren’t used to characters being (righteously) angry, especially at first, this could be hard to start off. She’s not a perfect person, but here’s the thing: she knows she’s not. She has more than enough people in her life to tell her that. She does have people in her court – her best friend Waverly and her mother (and eventually Ariana, but I’ll get to her). The thing about it is that when you’re in that position, it can be sometimes hard to see what good you have. Especially in this book about the first summer for the rest of her life.
When things go bad for Carmen, they got really bad. Thankfully, nothing completely awful but anytime she vents and whenever she’s faced with her mistakes, it felt very cathartic. Unlike some of the other characters, Carmen is absolutely the type to admit that she screws up and will say it loud and proud. And that’s one thing that made her grow on me as a character and as the main character. She’s pretty stuck in her own mind (after being forced there) and Mauro, who won’t leave her alone, really does help push the story along.
However, just like Beauty and the Beast, somebody bent.
For Mauro, I was a bit confused about what he did and why he did. Then again, this entire book was written entirely from Carmen’s point of view so that’s to be expected. She did have entirely valid reasons to stay away from Mauro but then, she also has entirely valid reasons to be attracted to him again. Because of plot shenanigans, they’re forced to work together as Beauty and the Beast and then get hired to do her cousin’s quinceañera – the same cousin that originally drove them apart.
Although, due to high school’s nature, I wonder if their separation was inevitable. But we’ll never know because after actually talking, after getting to know and understand Mauro better, I actually did end up rooting for the two of them. Another thing that tied to their relationship was the hurt that Carmen’s father brought to both her and her mother. It doesn’t help matters with her aunt having the grudge (and her own messy past with her mom as well) about her father. Oof, this was a lot to take in to be sure, but it was so satisfying to have a conclusion to it all.
Ariana, her cousin, is probably one of the most lost characters in this book. Carmen at least knows who she is even with the rumors. She’s definitely those girls who have the strictest upbringing and the second she’s loose, she goes wild and ends up blaming it all on Carmen (who has nothing to do with it, really). It happens every day. However, it is good to see that she actually does feel bad about what happened before and does make an effort to make amends to Carmen after what happened. I wish her brother and father had a bit bigger roles, but I can see why they wouldn’t, and then I realize I don’t really care about them. The main focus is really between the mothers and their daughters and the terrible feelings between them.
It’s a good story about standing up for your truth and secrets. You should absolutely stand up for yourself when you know the truth and despite everything. Even though family may not always be there for you, if you’re there for yourself, the truth shall prevail. And while it took some time, fairy tale endings do come true – adjusted or not, they do eventually come true.