June 19, 2006
Malín Alegría begins each chapter of her funny first novel with a definition of a Spanish word. Chapter One's entry succinctly lays out the dilemma of Estrella Alvarez, age 14:
quinceañera...1. traditional party (one that I refuse to have). According to my mom, a girl's fifteenth birthday is supposed to be the biggest day in her life. The quinceañera is like a huge flashing neon sign for womanhood. Back in the olden times, it meant that a woman was ready to get married and have babies. 2. The way I see it, it's just a lame party with cheesy music and puffy princess dresses.
Estrella lives in the San Jose barrio but attends a fancy private school for girls on a scholarship. Her school chums are rich and Anglo, and Estrella, who is working-class and Mexican-American (she would say American), knows, just knows that her new pals would find a quinceañera celebration to be the height of tackiness. She doesn't even have to ask them. Oh, and her parents embarrass the living daylights out of her, too. Then there's that boy, the one who dresses like a cholo, a guy from the 'hood. He is so cute, but Estrella's dad has told her that she cannot date until she turns the ancient age of sixteen.
As a girl with feet in two worlds, Estrella must reconcile her past and present, but I won't spoil the party by saying how she does it. The closeness of family, even when they drive you crazy, is an underlying theme, and Alegría writes with wit and a flair for drama. I mean it as a compliment when I say that I can see the characters from Estrella's Quinceañera in a television show. I'd watch it!
I recommend this book to teenage girls and fans of programs like "My So-Called Life." I finished it long after the deadline for the 48 Hour Book Challenge, so I can't count it in my final tally. Está bien—that's okay.
How funny! One of my weekend reading books (Chasing the Jaguar)featured a very similar heroine, also facing a quinceañera. Poor girl attending fancy school on a scholarship, living in the barrio, feet in both worlds, etc. I'll keep my eye out for this one. It looks fun!
Posted by: Jen Robinson | June 19, 2006 at 02:11 PM
Jen, I'll go read about your quinceanera! I just saw that our library has a copy of another quinceanera book called Cuba 15.
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2006 at 02:30 PM
I like the sound of this book too. Funny enough, I've read Cuba 15. So among the three of us, we have a quinceanera extravaganza. Try saying that three times fast. I'm skimming and posting Cuba 15 tonight. Try and stop me.
Posted by: MotherReader | June 20, 2006 at 09:08 AM
MR, yes, a quinceanera triumvirate. Go for it.
Posted by: Susan | June 20, 2006 at 09:20 AM
A quinceanera triumvirate sounds bien. Well, it would sound good, if I could say it three times fast, but I'm sure that I can't. But I'm happy to be part of such a triumvirate.
I actually just read a review on the Teen Page in my local paper (San Jose Mercury News) today of Estrella's Quinceanera. The teen reviewer, Hannah Gould, basically said that it was fun, but too simple, with not enough depth to the characters. She recommended it for preteens, rather than high school students. Do you think that teen readers are harder on their books than we are?
Posted by: Jen Robinson | June 20, 2006 at 02:09 PM
Jen, yep, I would bet that some sophisticated teen readers probably are harder on these books than we are. I think that it depends on what kind of reader a kid is. Those going for the intellectual stuff are will probably want more adult-like books.
I thought that the author drew her world well; the ending was little pat but I could forgive that. The teen reviewer is right in that advanced preteen readers (girls) would probably enjoy Estrella's Quinceanera, but I do think teenage girls would like it, too.
Posted by: Susan | June 21, 2006 at 09:19 AM
I just finished reading the book and I absolutely love it!!! I love the fact that the reader can pull several different lesson away from this one book with several contriversies.
Posted by: Camielle T | June 21, 2006 at 06:36 PM
Camielle, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I did too. Thanks for visiting Chicken Spaghetti!
Posted by: Susan | June 21, 2006 at 07:17 PM
As an Hipsanic-American, i found this book EXTREMLY relatable: The two different worlds Estrella wants to belong to, appreciating your roots, QUINCEANERAS, and growing up.
It was a fun read and really reminded me about apprecaiting my culture and to never try to hide what you truly are.
Posted by: A.C.Sepulveda | August 08, 2006 at 07:07 PM
I really liked this book. Does anyone have any suggestions for followup books with similarities to this one?
Posted by: 1 | August 08, 2006 at 08:18 PM
I wanted to punch her parents towards the end of the book. They were being so unreasonable! The highs and lows drove me crazy until the conclusion . The conclusion was frickin sweet! Like - kick ass ending! It was the perfect way to end the book and to sumerize everything Estrella had learned. I almost cried. Speedy was pretty hot, and her friends were the best! I wish I had a family the size of my neighborhood who loved me the same way her's did. Wait ago Estrella!
Posted by: Danny | March 18, 2008 at 09:27 PM
It's a good book, isn't it, that gets a reader so involved! Thanks for stopping by, Danny.
Posted by: Susan T. | March 19, 2008 at 10:41 PM
is this book a movie????
Posted by: rosa | August 12, 2008 at 08:43 PM
Rosa, I haven't heard anything about the book's being made into a movie, but I am out of the loop as far as films are concerned!
Posted by: Susan T. | August 13, 2008 at 01:34 PM
I'm starting to read this book for my Spanish Class. So far, I've read chapter one. It sounds really interesting! I can't wait to read it!
Posted by: Tram Nguyen | September 04, 2008 at 06:17 PM
Tram, are you reading it in English or Spanish? As I remember, the book does contain many Spanish words. It's been a while since I've read the novel, but I certainly did enjoy it. Hope you like it, too!
Posted by: Susan T. | September 04, 2008 at 07:05 PM
HeY!!!! I luv the book!!!!!! Just bought the book today!!!!! Does the author have any more books
Posted by: tykiera | October 08, 2008 at 07:19 PM
Tykiera, thanks for stopping by. Malin Alegria does have one other book that I know of: Mi>Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico. Great title, isn't it? I haven't read it yet.
Posted by: Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) | October 08, 2008 at 08:11 PM