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Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

March 24, 2021 in Book Reviews
Once Upon a Quinceanera by Monica Gomez-Hira

AD • I received a copy of this book from the publishers. My review is voluntary and opinions are entirely my own.

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

Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Publication: 2nd March 2021
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: eBook (432 pages)
Rating: ★★★★

Content Warnings:
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.


Book Review

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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I'm Hayley (she/her) and I'm more than a little bit bookish. Cosy Chapters is where I share all things book-related plus the occasional post about the cosy lifestyle. When I'm not reading, you'll find me spending time with my little family, rewatching sitcoms, planning the now somewhat elusive trip to Disneyland Paris and losing entire days playing ACNH.

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  • Stephanie @ Bookfever March 24, 2021 at 5:23 pm

    I can already tell this book has a lot of great messages and takes on tough topics but that’s also pretty light. So that sounds like a good read to me!

    • Hayley March 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      It really is! 🙂

  • Cristina Rosano March 26, 2021 at 9:06 am

    This has been on my radar since it came out! Was just waiting to hear some opinions on it, but when I read the synopsis and it was recommended for Jane the Virgin fans I was down for it! It sounds like a great read and can’t wait to get it, really like the sound of Carmen and the themes! Thank you for sharing x

    • Hayley March 26, 2021 at 1:36 pm

      Ahhhhh Cristina! I hope you enjoy it and that it lives up to your expectations! 🙂

  • Eleanor Jones March 26, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I’ve heard a lot about the Quinceanera tradition, and this sounds like a lovely, culturally diverse book! Thank you for sharing x

    • Hayley March 26, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks Eleanor, I have to agree – it is really lovely and diverse! 🙂

  • Fadima Mooneira March 26, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Sounds like a good book for light reading. Would like to check this book out. Thank you for sharing your review.

    • Hayley March 26, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks Fadima, hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  • Stephanie March 26, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    When I first heard about this book, it was while I was researching new releases for a blog post and I thought, “this sounds really cute!” But I didn’t expect it to have the depth that you’ve mentioned in this review. I might need to pick it up soon. It sounds way better than I even imagined!

    • Hayley March 26, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Right? It’s really marketed as being a romcom and while I did see that a little bit, it definitely went a lot deeper than that. There wasn’t that much romance either so I think some readers will be disappointed about that but it was the perfect amount for me. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it, Stephanie!

  • Lindsey March 27, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Ah this sounds like a great review. I love the sound of Carmen as a character. Not one I’d heard of before so thanks for the recommendation!

    • Hayley April 7, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks Lindsey! 🙂

  • Heather @ RandomRedheadedRamblings March 27, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    This sounds so good! I love Florida and I’m curious to see how she gets on dancing in that heat!

    • Hayley April 7, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks Heather! There are many descriptions of sweat in the book so my guess is: not easily haha. 🙂

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    Welcome to Cosy Chapters!

    I'm Hayley (she/her) and I'm more than a little bit bookish.

    Cosy Chapters is where I share all things book-related plus the occasional post about the cosy lifestyle.

    When I'm not reading, you'll find me spending time with my little family, rewatching sitcoms, planning the now somewhat elusive trip to Disneyland Paris and losing entire days playing ACNH.

    Follow Cosy Chapters on

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