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Once Upon a Quinceañera

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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 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 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.


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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 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 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.

30 review for Once Upon a Quinceañera

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cande

    No ♥️ I had such high hopes for this book, it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year... There were so many things I didn't enjoy; I felt like the characters were very unidimensional, the romance was bland, the love interest was kind of the worst for half of the story, the plot was lost along the way. But my major problem was the internalized misogyny that is never addressed and how everything at the end accomplished nothing. This book promised to tackle classicism, double standards, No ♥️ I had such high hopes for this book, it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year... There were so many things I didn't enjoy; I felt like the characters were very unidimensional, the romance was bland, the love interest was kind of the worst for half of the story, the plot was lost along the way. But my major problem was the internalized misogyny that is never addressed and how everything at the end accomplished nothing. This book promised to tackle classicism, double standards, prejudice, family, and a cute second chance romance. Instead, we got this, underwhelming and with zero nuanced. The only good thing about this reading experience was buddy reading with Lili and Vic. Full review will post on my blog

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Lynn Solomon

    This book is pure sunshine. I was lucky enough to read an early version, and I fell head over heels on page 1. There's so much to love here: the complex family dynamics, the shimmering Miami setting, Monica Gomez-Hira's pitch-perfect voice and humor. Carmen's desire to prove herself and outrun her past mistakes is so intensely relatable, and her second-chance romance with Mauro is one of my favorite YA relationships. I can't wait to read the final version in 2021!! This book is pure sunshine. I was lucky enough to read an early version, and I fell head over heels on page 1. There's so much to love here: the complex family dynamics, the shimmering Miami setting, Monica Gomez-Hira's pitch-perfect voice and humor. Carmen's desire to prove herself and outrun her past mistakes is so intensely relatable, and her second-chance romance with Mauro is one of my favorite YA relationships. I can't wait to read the final version in 2021!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Carmen Aguilar is prepared to grin and bear it for this summer. Literally. As a party princess for Dreams Come True, she's got to smile and make nice for toddlers and more in order to complete her internship and get her high school diploma. Then her awful ex-boyfriend becomes her coworker, the Beast to her Belle. And her company is hired to put on her estranged cousin's quinceañera. Carmen is determined to succeed. She is going to smile and dance and be the best damn princess ever. People say a l Carmen Aguilar is prepared to grin and bear it for this summer. Literally. As a party princess for Dreams Come True, she's got to smile and make nice for toddlers and more in order to complete her internship and get her high school diploma. Then her awful ex-boyfriend becomes her coworker, the Beast to her Belle. And her company is hired to put on her estranged cousin's quinceañera. Carmen is determined to succeed. She is going to smile and dance and be the best damn princess ever. People say a lot of things. You of all people know that. What matters is what people do, and what they have done, and that's how you know what to expect. Okay, this one made me bawl a little (a lot) at the end. It was definitely good, although not quiiiiiite what I was expecting. Based upon that blurb, I was anticipating a more light-hearted YA contemporary romance with lots of shade/homage to Disney and their princesses and a little insight into womanhood and feminity, not a book that was going to take my heart and rip it into a million pieces and then sew it back together. Carmen is a girl with baggage and walls. She has had to build those walls to protect herself, from the assholes who catcall her on the streets to the former classmates who treated her like a whore. Most of her issues stem from a single instant—three and a half years ago, she dated a boy named Mauro, who incidentally happened to be the son of a very famous photographer. The boy promised his dad would take photos of her for her quince, and Carmen told her younger cousin, who told everyone. Then, after the rumor blew up, Carmen came to Mauro's party, found him with another girl, her 12 year old cousin got drunk and took video of everything, and Carmen called the cops on the party. As a result, Mauro was sent away and Carmen was blamed for everything. Her aunt—who had been funding a small dinner for her quinceañera—revoked the funding and Carmen built her walls. In addition to all this backstory—the beginning is a little rough due to the immense backstory that has to be handled—Carmen is dealing with her mother and aunt's complicated relationship. Her aunt married her mom's ex-boyfriend, and Carmen's dad was a rich boy who ended up being a fling, and her wealthy aunt looked down upon her "trashy" mom as a result, and continuously insinuated Carmen would be the exact same. And of course, Carmen constantly feels like her aunt is slapping her in the face. Carmen had been denied her right of passage into womanhood, refused even a small, private quinceañera instead of the semi-traditional over-the-top blowout many girls experience, and to see her cousin get everything she was denied get quite literally rubbed in her face was a lot for one girl to handle. Not including the fact that she had to dance with her ex-boyfriend while her cousin gets jiggy with her crush. Okay, that's a lot. Carmen is a girl whose hurt translates to her rebuffing everyone. She's overwhelmed with jealousy and anger—angry at the world for being unfair, angry at her family for forsaking her, angry at the misogynistic wedding photographer who torpedoed her first internship and her ability to graduate, and jealous of her cousin who has everything handed to her on a silver platter with no consequences. Over time, as her past comes back to haunt her—literally—Carmen begins to grow as a person, and let her walls break down. While Mauro was pretty much a single-dimensional character devoted to all things Carmen (with little agency of his own), Carmen's cousin Arianna was an interesting character. I wanted more of her personality to come out, but I did like how she was juxtaposed against Carmen, and how her own anger at that night was shown. And how the two cousins eventually breached their past hurt and anger. However, the part that made me cry was the very end. Where Carmen realizes that while you can't change the past, you can move past it, and you can forge new relationships with people. And that sometimes true family was right there all along. I wish Carmen's mom and Enrique had more page time, because when they were on page, they sparkled. Anywho, overall this was about a girl's second chance, and how she found her own happily ever after, even if that looked nothing like what she had anticipated. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    2.5 /5 stars Once Upon a Quinceañera is a Young Adult Contemporary romance that takes place in Miami. The narrator is 18 year old high school senior, Carmen (1st person POV). The cover is so cute and eye-catching. But the story was just okay. Carmen's best friend Waverly works as a party princess. And Carmen is forced to join her. There is a bit of a love triangle between Carmen's former fling Mauro and Alex (who Carmen is now pining over). The quinceañera part of the story was interesting. Carmen nev 2.5 /5 stars Once Upon a Quinceañera is a Young Adult Contemporary romance that takes place in Miami. The narrator is 18 year old high school senior, Carmen (1st person POV). The cover is so cute and eye-catching. But the story was just okay. Carmen's best friend Waverly works as a party princess. And Carmen is forced to join her. There is a bit of a love triangle between Carmen's former fling Mauro and Alex (who Carmen is now pining over). The quinceañera part of the story was interesting. Carmen never got to have one. And her cousin Ariana is having one soon. The romance wasn't bad. But I just found myself wishing that more would happen. And the beginning was slow. The last chapters were definitely the best. And the ending was pretty good. I did have a good feeling about the book when I finished it. But overall I just wanted more. Thanks to edelweiss and HarperTeen for allowing me to read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anya

    Real review to come, but 😍🥰❤️😍🥰❤️😍🥰❤️ Thank you to HarperTeen (via NetGalley) for the ARC! Content warnings: (view spoiler)[mentions of sexual harassment by an employer; underage drinking; mentions of drug abuse (hide spoiler)] I sat down and started reading this book late yesterday morning, and had finished it before I went to bed last night. I’m not usually someone who finishes books in less than a day, but ONCE UPON A QUINCEAÑERA had me hooked from the beginning! Carmen Aguilar is stuck performin Real review to come, but 😍🥰❤️😍🥰❤️😍🥰❤️ Thank you to HarperTeen (via NetGalley) for the ARC! Content warnings: (view spoiler)[mentions of sexual harassment by an employer; underage drinking; mentions of drug abuse (hide spoiler)] I sat down and started reading this book late yesterday morning, and had finished it before I went to bed last night. I’m not usually someone who finishes books in less than a day, but ONCE UPON A QUINCEAÑERA had me hooked from the beginning! Carmen Aguilar is stuck performing as Belle the summer after her unfinished senior year, and it’s the only way she can graduate. She didn’t finish a project required to get her diploma (because of an honestly shitty situation that wasn’t her fault, and is the one thing I didn’t like about the book: (view spoiler)[Carmen’s boss for her first internship sexually harasses her, so she quits. But her advisors for the project put all the blame on her for an incomplete project, making her start over at another internship entirely. There is no consequence for the boss from her first internship, and she is punished for his behavior, which becomes the impetus for the entire plot of the book. So, not a great beginning, but I do love the rest of the story (hide spoiler)] ). So she’s spending her summer dressed in an uncomfortable, sweaty princess gown (in the humid Miami heat, no less), working birthday parties for little girls. It’s just Carmen’s luck when her sort-of ex, Mauro, shows up as the new Beast to Carmen’s Belle. Then, to make matters even worse, Carmen’s boss Simone informs the group that they will be performing at the quinceañera of Carmen’s estranged cousin, Ariana. I really enjoyed Carmen’s character because she is truly what so many teenagers are: flawed. Carmen has had her share of relationship mishaps and family issues, but at the beginning of the book, she sees herself as the victim in most of these situations. Carmen sees how she has been wronged and how people have mistreated her, but she doesn’t quite see how maybe she was wrong as well. I think Gomez-Hira captures that particular teenage feeling really well because when you are a teenager, it’s sometimes hard to be introspective and aware of how your actions affect other people. It’s a time of learning about yourself, so you are naturally very focused on yourself, which can lead to being very unaware of how your own actions affect others. Heck, this even happens to adults. You get so wrapped up in seeing yourself as the victim that it’s hard to see you may have had some part in the victimizing. I think Carmen shows incredible growth throughout this book. She learns about herself and what she wants for her future; she learns about what she wants in a relationship; and she learns how to grow from mistakes she has made with her family. And serious character growth aside, this book is so much fun! The side characters are well-fleshed out, and have vibrant personalities that jump off the page. Carmen often describes scenes in her life as straight out of a telenovela, and they do seem that way, which just adds to the drama and fun of the story. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, which is why I sped through it so quickly, and the romance is *chef’s kiss.* I’m usually not a fan of second chance romance at all, but I really liked it in this case. Mauro was a sweetie, and I thought the way their relationship was handled was done really well: they both made mistakes in the past, but in the time they were apart, both Carmen and Mauro had matured and were able to grow from those experiences. Carmen’s relationship with her cousin Ariana was also a really interesting part of this story, in my opinion. Throughout the book, it was very fraught. They start the story not on speaking terms because of a blowout at what was supposed to be Carmen’s own quinceañera three years prior. They go back and forth throughout the book making up and fighting again because once, they were as close as sisters. The relationship between their mothers, who are sisters, complicates the situation even more. I thought the way that this particular relationship was portrayed was fascinating because it’s not neat and tidy, even by the end of the book. It’s not magically fixed because they decide to make up and it’s something that both girls know they will have to work on in the future. So if you’ve made it this far in my review, I definitely recommend reading this book! It’s a fantastic debut, and a great pick-me-up if you’re in a bit of a blah mood (which I was when I started reading). It releases March 2nd, so be on the look-out for it, or better yet, pre-order it! I have one gripe, which is not about the book at all, but about the blurb (which I know the author doesn’t write): It is described as Jenny Han (which I get) meets Jane the Virgin (which, ?????). There is absolutely NOTHING about this book that would make me think of Jane the Virgin, so I think that is a lazy comp. The only similarities are that the MC is Latina and that it’s set in Miami. And okay she mentions telenovelas. But otherwise…??? Carmen is not a writer, she is not accidentally impregnated, she isn’t even an adult, she doesn’t have a soap star father, like… I feel like this blurb was written by a white person who doesn’t know any other media starring Latinas so just randomly picked JtV because it’s also set in Miami. I could be wrong, but either way I think that was an odd choice of comparison for this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Frank Chillura (OhYouRead)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I am a huge fan of LatinX Own Voices books, so when I heard about Once Upon a Quinceañera, I knew it was a book that I needed to read. From the very beginning, we get a Telenovela level amount of mishaps. Not only is there family drama, but we get a possible second chance romance. So needless to say, I was entrapped. Quinceañeras are a time of celebration to usher a girl into her future as a woman, but Carmen never got hers. Does that mean that her life isn’t as important? I think that was definit I am a huge fan of LatinX Own Voices books, so when I heard about Once Upon a Quinceañera, I knew it was a book that I needed to read. From the very beginning, we get a Telenovela level amount of mishaps. Not only is there family drama, but we get a possible second chance romance. So needless to say, I was entrapped. Quinceañeras are a time of celebration to usher a girl into her future as a woman, but Carmen never got hers. Does that mean that her life isn’t as important? I think that was definitely a question she asked herself for the majority of the book. Her Father left when she was young and she’s been raised by a single Mother for most of her life... well, and the rest of her family. Only problem is... most of them aren’t speaking to her now. I loved the drama a lot! What I didn’t love was that I felt the Aunt who helped raise her, suddenly stops speaking to her is very confusing and unbelievable. She talks about happy memories of her Aunt taking her places and buying her things.... but then that same Aunt is sneering at her, getting happy when she feels like she isn’t good enough... all because she took her 12yo cousin to a High School party. That warrants 3, almost 4, years of not speaking to her and then treating her like trash. I don’t know if I believe it. I liked Mauro a lot, but her love interest in the very beginning... well the guy she liked, is seeing her cousin who is 3 years younger? It seemed a little on the nose. Maybe it’s because the Aunt is dating her Mother’s ex-boyfriend. Well not dating... married to. Like I said Telenovela. I didn’t know whether to love or hate it for half of the book. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I wanted more of the “Dreams Come True” parties. 3.5⭐️ Thank You to Monica Gomez- Hira and EpicReads for a finished copy of Once Upon a Quinceañera in return of an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book. Everyone! READ. THIS. BOOK. Excuse my flailing but I absolutely freaking loved this. There is not a single thing about Carmen's story that I didn't love. There is tension, there is romance, there is friendship, there is character development, there is family trauma, there are life lessons. And it's all wonderfully done. The fact that Carmen has to work as a "Dream" for the summer and dress up as Belle from beauty and Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book. Everyone! READ. THIS. BOOK. Excuse my flailing but I absolutely freaking loved this. There is not a single thing about Carmen's story that I didn't love. There is tension, there is romance, there is friendship, there is character development, there is family trauma, there are life lessons. And it's all wonderfully done. The fact that Carmen has to work as a "Dream" for the summer and dress up as Belle from beauty and the beast for children's parties was just the most endearing thing. I loved her confidence, I loved her attitude and her fight. Carmen is not here to be trifled with. She is a strong, independent female character who has been burned lots of times before and she had enough - understandably. I loved the slow budding romance between her and the Love interest (no spoilers!!). It was so goddamn charming that I kept having to put my book down to be able to properly sigh. Carmen is also headstrong and knows what she wants, which was absolutely fabulous to witness. The way she solves her problems and doesn't run away from them is absolutely inspiring and I definitely have found a new book for my favourites shelf. Simply put: This book is a modern fairy tale in which the princess swears and makes the prince work for her. So. Perfect, really.

  8. 4 out of 5

    sunkissedmiranda

    2/5 stars. I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As with my advanced review with Cemetery Boys, I was really looking forward to this one but was ultimately disappointed by stagnant, inconsistent characters, lackluster character development, a flimsy plot that kept shifting through three to four subplots to pad the word count, and a romance that was so incredibly stale due to not only a lack of genuine chemistry, but lousy dialogue. As with Cemetery Boys, I feel pr 2/5 stars. I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As with my advanced review with Cemetery Boys, I was really looking forward to this one but was ultimately disappointed by stagnant, inconsistent characters, lackluster character development, a flimsy plot that kept shifting through three to four subplots to pad the word count, and a romance that was so incredibly stale due to not only a lack of genuine chemistry, but lousy dialogue. As with Cemetery Boys, I feel pretty bad giving a book with authentic latinx representation any less than three stars, but this was such a drag to get through. So, let’s get down to it! Minor spoilers below. PROS I think the best-executed subplot out of the MANY in this book were the insecurities the protagonist, Carmen had about her friendship with Waverly. As an overall high school outcast, it makes sense for her to cling to the only true friends she’s had in years while simultaneously trying to push her away because she doesn’t want to be the one who’s unexpectedly hurt or abandoned. There was genuine tension that I wish was further explored and it could’ve been if a few of the overall meaningless subplots were removed. Another aspect I liked was Carmen’s unique hobby. She likes to create music videos of TV shows (something I like to do in my spare time as well!) and she’s incredibly passionate about videography. I also liked how her distinct summer job was a key part of the plot – acting and dancing as a Disney princess isn’t something I haven’t seen before. Usually, summer jobs in YA are relegated to an amusement park, bookstore, or fast food joint. The author thought outside the box for this one and was part of the reason I continued to read. CONS Infodumps: Another contemporary YA book that gives me the character’s ENTIRE backstory in the first fifteen pages. That takes the entire mystery out of who Carmen is and who she wants to be. The massive infodump in the beginning took away from what could’ve been a dynamic first chapter. It also spoiled any tension between Carmen and her primary love interest, Mauro. There are plenty of infodumps about Carmen’s history throughout the book and it would always distract from whatever plot the author decided to work on at that point. Subplots: This book is less of “one major plot with subplots” and more of “one subplot that’s slightly more important than the other eight crammed into this book.” Like, yes, the overall plot is Carmen having to deal with being a part of her estranged cousin’s quinceanera but it really never seems to take precedence over anything else. It never feels like the focal point. The author pulls Carmen in twenty different directions all at once and that leads to unfulfilling conclusions and unnecessary filler. Romance: One of the subplots that could have been thrown out was Carmen’s initial attraction to a boy named Alex. It didn’t lead anywhere or do anything for the plot besides cause unnecessary drama towards the end of the book. Then we got Carmen’s primary love interest, Mauro. It’s incredibly obvious he’s still in-love with Carmen from the get-go, which makes Carmen’s obliviousness and “why does he look at me like that” so terribly annoying half the time. And because their history is revealed to the reader within the first twenty-five pages, there’s no real tension between the two or any sort of chemistry other than “my not-ex is constantly in my life now and I don’t know how I feel about that.” Mauro’s grand gesture towards the end was cute though. Protagonist: Carmen lacks any real driving motivation. While it’s fine for a main character to not know what they want, Carmen just does whatever feels “right” in the moment. You never get a sense of how she really feels about anything except for her estranged family and even that is unraveled by the middle of the book. Someone could claim her driving motivation is receiving her high school diploma, but that falls flat when she hardly mentions it throughout the course of the novel. While I believe teens can find Carmen relatable as she floats in-and-out of life, I don’t think her indecisiveness and inconsistency make for compelling storytelling, particularly when that inconsistency isn’t treated as a flaw. Characters: My GOD. The characters are so inconsistent in this book!! Especially Carmen’s mother. One second, she’s telling her daughter to go after Mauro and to believe in second chances and in the next she demands how dare she fall for a boy that’s gonna leave her high and dry once the summer is over. Maddening!! I also couldn’t care about the vast majority of the characters – almost all of them lacked personalities, the two exceptions being Waverly and Ariana (though I have my gripes with her as well). Dialogue: It was crap. Though I did appreciate the Spanish throughout! And there you have it! Let us all pray that the next eARC I read isn't two stars or I'm definitely going to feel a bit cursed...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    Carmen and Ariana are cousins with a history. It's complicated. Their moms are involved. A past boyfriend named Mauro and his dad Oscar are part of the story. Carmen's absent dad Junior is an absent, but crucial thread as well. What happened on that day when Carmen's Quinceanera was canceled? Now Ariana is planning her own Quinceanera and it looks like it will be everything Carmen had dreamed of. Will it be more of a nightmare if Carmen has to perform along with the corte as part of her summer j Carmen and Ariana are cousins with a history. It's complicated. Their moms are involved. A past boyfriend named Mauro and his dad Oscar are part of the story. Carmen's absent dad Junior is an absent, but crucial thread as well. What happened on that day when Carmen's Quinceanera was canceled? Now Ariana is planning her own Quinceanera and it looks like it will be everything Carmen had dreamed of. Will it be more of a nightmare if Carmen has to perform along with the corte as part of her summer job for a part company? The bonds of family loom large in this debut novel and I loved the many ways Beauty and the Beast was woven into the plot. Can Carmen and Ariana both find a way forward where happy endings are possible? Thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine Perez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had fun with the book because a lot of the quince and family happenings are familiar to me. The annoying cousin, competitive Tia's and fuss over the big day. It was a cute story. The relationship between Carmen and her mother was a bit sad, also reminded me of my relationship with my mother. I would have liked a bigger win for Carmen in life. Not sure what I expect that to look like, maybe more exploration with her hobbies and confidence, and a little less of the boy drama. Overall, took me ba I had fun with the book because a lot of the quince and family happenings are familiar to me. The annoying cousin, competitive Tia's and fuss over the big day. It was a cute story. The relationship between Carmen and her mother was a bit sad, also reminded me of my relationship with my mother. I would have liked a bigger win for Carmen in life. Not sure what I expect that to look like, maybe more exploration with her hobbies and confidence, and a little less of the boy drama. Overall, took me back, I appreciated the book and looking forward to reading more by this author.

  11. 5 out of 5

    USOM

    (Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Once Upon a Quinceañera was so frustrating. I am so glad I was buddy reading this with Cande and Vic because I'm not sure I would have finished it otherwise. Maybe it is just the case of high expectations, but I was so excited for a book that featured a complex family situation. But what I got was just so flat? The aspect I was looking forward to, wasn't really wrapped up, in a way I (Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Once Upon a Quinceañera was so frustrating. I am so glad I was buddy reading this with Cande and Vic because I'm not sure I would have finished it otherwise. Maybe it is just the case of high expectations, but I was so excited for a book that featured a complex family situation. But what I got was just so flat? The aspect I was looking forward to, wasn't really wrapped up, in a way I found satisfying. At the same time, it seemed a bit too convenient, especially considering the gravity of the situation (and the emotions involved). While I know that everyone likes different things in a romance, this was just no working for me. I was promised complex past mistakes and feuds, but what I got was a little lackluster. I did not see the appeal in either love interest. I don't want to get too into it because I don't want to spoil the plot for people who want to read! But yeah, I was just so frustrated for Carmen. full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Morelia (Strandedinbooks)

    This book was so fucking cute!! Sure, not much gets addressed at the end and it definitely left me wanting more closure, buuuuuut this one is so unapologetically Latinx I LOVED IT SO MUCH FOR IT

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This physical book was provided by Harper Collins Children's Books in exchange for a complete and honest review. Read more reviews at: Astronomy Of My Dreams 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 i This physical book was provided by Harper Collins Children's Books in exchange for a complete and honest review. Read more reviews at: Astronomy Of My Dreams 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    caro | sanjariti

    I don’t give out 1 star ratings a lot but this... this was a hot mess. Emphasis on the mess. There is ZERO character growth. All the characters are really shitty in the beginning and by the end... are still just as shitty. They don’t have much to their personalities and they’re just a bunch of teen a-holes, which can get very annoying very quickly. The plot didn’t really make any sense, and the conflict points weren’t the best. There was SO much potential here and it was all a waste. I was really I don’t give out 1 star ratings a lot but this... this was a hot mess. Emphasis on the mess. There is ZERO character growth. All the characters are really shitty in the beginning and by the end... are still just as shitty. They don’t have much to their personalities and they’re just a bunch of teen a-holes, which can get very annoying very quickly. The plot didn’t really make any sense, and the conflict points weren’t the best. There was SO much potential here and it was all a waste. I was really looking forward to this one and I am just so disappointed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janie E.

    DNF within the first chapter. I found Carmen to be kind of annoying (she seemed really aimless and too-cool-for-school), and the entire thing about her old boss Edwin sexually harassing her was written as a funny aside. I was in a similar situation when I was about Carmen's age, and I wish someone had told me that wasn't okay, but instead I just brushed it off as a "funny story", and this book seems to perpetuate that notion (and all her teachers/administrators seem to put on the blame on her fo DNF within the first chapter. I found Carmen to be kind of annoying (she seemed really aimless and too-cool-for-school), and the entire thing about her old boss Edwin sexually harassing her was written as a funny aside. I was in a similar situation when I was about Carmen's age, and I wish someone had told me that wasn't okay, but instead I just brushed it off as a "funny story", and this book seems to perpetuate that notion (and all her teachers/administrators seem to put on the blame on her for quitting that job?? And the boss isn't blacklisted, so he could continue doing this to other high school girls??). Of course, I haven't finished the book, so maybe this gets addressed later on, but opening a rom-com book with sexual harassment from one's boss seems like not the move. The stakes/conflict presented were also not that interesting. Of course, graduating from high school is important, but I wish the author had escalated the stakes even further (if Carmen can't graduate, then what? Will she get rescinded from her dream college? Or are her parents just putting a ton of pressure on her to get a diploma? Why is this important to her, emotionally?). The "life vision" class that Carmen failed feels contrived, like a class that the author made up so Carmen could have some conflict and be forced into working for the costume company. Stylistically, the writing was just weak, even for a debut. Awkward sentence constructions and pretty basic syntax. Typical YA heroine voice. Sometimes that's okay if the rest of the book is enough to keep me interested, but...eh. Maybe I'll return to it someday...but honestly, I had so many other books to read, I just couldn't bring myself to keep going. Rating it two stars instead of one because there aren't enough Latin-American stories in YA, and also because I didn't actually read most of the book, so maybe it gets better later.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    Thanks to NetGalley and HarperTeen for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. Updated 3/2/21 3.75 stars This is a very sweet romance featuring a likable and nicely developed m.c., Carmen, who is at a pivotal moment: the post-high school graduation phase...except she hasn't quite graduated yet. Carmen is extremely readable because her intentions are pure, she makes a lot of mistakes, and despite her efforts, she has some real antagonists Thanks to NetGalley and HarperTeen for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. Updated 3/2/21 3.75 stars This is a very sweet romance featuring a likable and nicely developed m.c., Carmen, who is at a pivotal moment: the post-high school graduation phase...except she hasn't quite graduated yet. Carmen is extremely readable because her intentions are pure, she makes a lot of mistakes, and despite her efforts, she has some real antagonists against her...in her own family. I found the adults in this novel wildly frustrating, almost universally, and while that irritated me a bit as a reader, it also made me root even harder for Carmen. When the novel begins, there are two potential love interests for Carmen: Alex, a person she is interested in currently and Mauro, her ex who appears in a literal fairy tale replication. There is not a lot of surprise in this part of the story, but it's a YA romance, so that can be forgiven. It's pretty sweet overall, and I really like how the romance aspects also facilitate a stronger relationship between Carmen and her mom. This is a solid YA romance that is better than most because of its great protagonist and the fantastic setting. Maybe it's the 10 months of stay-at-home orders, but wow, I really wanted to go back to Miami the whole time I read. Recommended -

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rendz

    Reading Once Upon a Quinceañera was both very fun and also very frustrating. This book was very nostalgic for me. I'd say it does a nice job of exploring one kind of quinceañera planning-adventure that happens when families go down this road. (I should note that having a quince party that's big and lavish is a privilege many girls do not get to experience, see classism) Although my quince was very different from the one in this book, I definitely felt drawn in by some connections! Especially when Reading Once Upon a Quinceañera was both very fun and also very frustrating. This book was very nostalgic for me. I'd say it does a nice job of exploring one kind of quinceañera planning-adventure that happens when families go down this road. (I should note that having a quince party that's big and lavish is a privilege many girls do not get to experience, see classism) Although my quince was very different from the one in this book, I definitely felt drawn in by some connections! Especially when it came to practicing dancing! I also liked that this book added the extra special touch of Disney into the party! It should be said off the bat that this book has a very large cast of mainly unlikable characters. Considering how much of a character-oriented person I am, I'm surprised to say that I didn't mind it *too* much. Carmen, the star of this show is very messy character. She is prickly, petty and knows how to hold a grudge. I liked the angle this story took on Carmen's constant fight against being labelled the "cautionary tale" for girls because of her past mistakes and her present struggles. She is not always a wonderful person per se, but I enjoyed spending my time with her in this book. As for the rest of the characters...I didn't think much of any of them. Ariana was quite annoying and I'm not sure if I saw much growth in her. Mauro...I didn't like him much at all by the end of the book, I don't hate any of these characters, but I felt like they were very one-sided. I live for family drama in books and this one really brought it out, Right from the start I was intrigued by the messiness and their feuds.. To say this family has its fair share of scandals is a slight understatement but that's what made it exciting to read! To confront the drama there is the overall theme of family forgiveness and hmm I think this family needed a lot more than what the book gave us to be on the path to forgiveness. When dealing with conflicts of classism and narcissism, there needs to be a lot of digging to get down to the nitty gritty of things. I felt like this book was a tad too surface level in its resolution, I wanted to dive in way more and bring about those conversations between Carmen and her family. I also didn't like that the male family members took such a backseat in this story and that the drama focused more between the women, as if the men weren't part of the problem (which they very much were!). On that note, I wasn't really into the romance. I didn't hate it, but again there was a very surface level resolution to some very big issues between these relationships. There is so much to unpack and I feel like we didn't get much of a chance to dig in, it felt too easy their reunion. I didn't dislike them, I just think that they need a lot more work. Like a lot more work. Overall, I liked reading this despite its many drawbacks. I think it could have benefited from a stronger characterization and a deeper dive into some of its themes. It's entertaining and I found that my own inner-pettiness connected to Carmen's, but I also think the book could have better challenged those feelings.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katie Prouty

    "I have to ask, though. Am I really the worst thing to ever happen to you?" "Obviously, YES." He smiled. "Same." Once upon a time, around three years ago, a girl turned a boy into a Beast. He was a jerk so she didn't have to do much to make it happen. And then he left the kingdom and disappeared. Until one day, the Beast came back. Carmen Aguilar just wants that HEA life; however, she's stuck working the summer as a party princess for a company called Dreams Come True. Then that company is hired "I have to ask, though. Am I really the worst thing to ever happen to you?" "Obviously, YES." He smiled. "Same." Once upon a time, around three years ago, a girl turned a boy into a Beast. He was a jerk so she didn't have to do much to make it happen. And then he left the kingdom and disappeared. Until one day, the Beast came back. Carmen Aguilar just wants that HEA life; however, she's stuck working the summer as a party princess for a company called Dreams Come True. Then that company is hired for her spoiled cousins, over the top quince. And who is Carmen's dance partner, also working at Dreams? None other than Mauro Reyes....the Beast. The nitwit that broke her heart. Ay! Will Carmen find her HEA? Or will her summer be her own personal telenovela. Once Upon a Quinceanera is such a wonderful delight! I've got salt-sticky cheeks from wet tears! I felt all the emotions for Carmencita...not getting her own quince and her absent father. Goodness, my heart hurt for her. And Mauro Reyes... Can you see my love-struck smile? He's a precioso bollito. Ultimate cinnamon roll! Actual footage of me during a specific, heart-warming Mauro scene. AND I LOVE HIM. *sighs dreamily.* No joke, when I say I was snort-laughing on page two. Several one-liners that were unexpected and had me LOL. Carmen has that teenage sarcastic wit that I revel in. Monica Gomez-Hira knocked it out of the park with her Own Voices, debut novel. READ IF YOU LIKE: -coming of age YA -sarcastic wit -second chance romance -"dancing in a gorgeous ballroom serenaded by that teapot chick" -#IsThisAKissingBook Si! He's the beast to her beauty -family drama & dynamics -that Disney fairy tale life -Bienvenidos a Miami (I sincerely hope you are now singing Will Smith) song: Hung Up by Tritonal, Sj, and Emma Gatsby

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zaynah Aboobaker

    Thank you so much to Harper36oYA for the e-ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. First things first, I absolutely loved this book! Didn't actually know it was a debut novel until after finishing the book, which makes me even more impressed! Once upon a Quinciñera is an own voices YA contemporary romance, which follows 18 year old Carmen in the summer following her senior year of high school. Reading this was genuinely like pure joy, I finished it one sitting and had a smile on my face mo Thank you so much to Harper36oYA for the e-ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. First things first, I absolutely loved this book! Didn't actually know it was a debut novel until after finishing the book, which makes me even more impressed! Once upon a Quinciñera is an own voices YA contemporary romance, which follows 18 year old Carmen in the summer following her senior year of high school. Reading this was genuinely like pure joy, I finished it one sitting and had a smile on my face most of the time. Carmen was a great protagonist who felt really authentic and well developed. I really felt for her character in her lower moments, and was rooting for her throughout! The romance was so so cute, I'm a sucker for grand gestures and Mauro really stole my heart. While their relationship followed the traditional path of 'enemies' to tentative friends to lovers, with some misunderstandings throughout, I liked the development of their romance. I really loved learning more about Latinx culture, I had no idea how much work went into planning a Quinciñera, but it sounds like such an amazing celebration! Highly recommend this one to pretty much everyone! Once upon a Quinciñera comes out March 2nd :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sara (Freadom Library)

    Actual rating 3.5 stars I received an e-ARC of this book from HarperCollins through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ONCE UPON A QUINCEAÑERA follows almost high school graduate Carmen working as a Disney princess and performer for her estranged cousin’s quinceañera during the summer in order to get her diploma. This strange situation is further complicated by the arrival of an old flame desperate to earn forgiveness. I really enjoyed this book! I connected a lot with Carmen a Actual rating 3.5 stars I received an e-ARC of this book from HarperCollins through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ONCE UPON A QUINCEAÑERA follows almost high school graduate Carmen working as a Disney princess and performer for her estranged cousin’s quinceañera during the summer in order to get her diploma. This strange situation is further complicated by the arrival of an old flame desperate to earn forgiveness. I really enjoyed this book! I connected a lot with Carmen and her family struggles and commiserated a lot with how she was affected by her family’s negative expectations of her. Unfortunately, the beginning was slow and filled to the brim with information. I felt like there were a lot of sub plots to keep track of. However, I found the romance endearing and loved Carmen’s personal growth throughout the story. While I wish the epilogue had wrapped up the story a bit differently, I would definitely recommend this book to YA contemporary readers looking for something new!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabi

    My expectations are what really ruined this book for me. I was really excited for this book and in the beginning I was enjoying it because there was so much drama set up and I was excited to see how it would all play out. But the main character is expected to forgive more than all the characters that hurt her are expected to apologize. Seriously, no one in this book knows how to apologize, including the love interest. I hate him. The book wants me to think he's a romantic, but honestly he's push My expectations are what really ruined this book for me. I was really excited for this book and in the beginning I was enjoying it because there was so much drama set up and I was excited to see how it would all play out. But the main character is expected to forgive more than all the characters that hurt her are expected to apologize. Seriously, no one in this book knows how to apologize, including the love interest. I hate him. The book wants me to think he's a romantic, but honestly he's pushy, possessive, and manipulative. There were some enjoyable moments, but mostly this book was pretty infuriating.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eva Langston

    So. Much. Fun. I loved Carmen's humorous voice and all the witty banter between the characters. I loved the party princess job where Carmen has to play Belle to her ex-boyfriend's Beast. I loved Carmen's cousin's over-the-top quinceanera. (Did you know there are tiara stores in Miami? I do now!) And of course I loved the love story between Carmen and her "beast." Can't wait to see the Netflix movie version of this book. So. Much. Fun. I loved Carmen's humorous voice and all the witty banter between the characters. I loved the party princess job where Carmen has to play Belle to her ex-boyfriend's Beast. I loved Carmen's cousin's over-the-top quinceanera. (Did you know there are tiara stores in Miami? I do now!) And of course I loved the love story between Carmen and her "beast." Can't wait to see the Netflix movie version of this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Carmen, Carmen, Carmen. This is one fiesty, hard-headed but ultimately passionate character, who you just can't help but root for. Even as she is the cause of most of her troubles. Family plays such an important role in the book - along with second chances and not letting others' opinions of define who are you. All the dancing, culture, Disney princess costumes and personal growth make this a fun and meaningful YA contemporary. Carmen, Carmen, Carmen. This is one fiesty, hard-headed but ultimately passionate character, who you just can't help but root for. Even as she is the cause of most of her troubles. Family plays such an important role in the book - along with second chances and not letting others' opinions of define who are you. All the dancing, culture, Disney princess costumes and personal growth make this a fun and meaningful YA contemporary.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa R

    This was cuuuuttteeeeeeeeeeeeeee Carmen put up with a lot of shit I personally soundly have handled as well as she did and I think it frustrated me a lot when reading lol. But overall this was a great quick read!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Housman Confessions of a YA Reader

    RTC Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for my review copy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    kglibrarian (Karin Greenberg)

    A cute teen romance with the vibrant backdrop of Miami. Full review to come in a future issue of School Library Journal.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Rodkey

    A charming story of family, friends, and first love. Gomez-Hira has a witty voice and sets the scene in such great detail that a bit of sweat rolled down my neck reading about the Miami heat.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shireen Hakim

    As a half-Mexican American, I was always intrigued by quinceaneras. This YA novel is as fun as attending a real party! Although it spares no drama, Once Upon a Quinceanera is perfect for readers who want to read about second chances and family forgiveness, and laugh while doing so. Thank you for the ARC HC and Edelweiss

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ellie M

    Carmen Maria Aguilar never wanted a quinceanera. All she wanted was a photoshoot with her boyfriend Mauro's father, who was a famous photographer, but even that didn't work out when she tracked him down at a party and left her twelve-year-old cousin alone. Now eighteen, Carmen hasn't yet received her high school diploma after quitting her video-editing internship. So as a last chance, she joins her best friend Waverly at Dreams Come True, a business that allows parties to hire Disney princes and Carmen Maria Aguilar never wanted a quinceanera. All she wanted was a photoshoot with her boyfriend Mauro's father, who was a famous photographer, but even that didn't work out when she tracked him down at a party and left her twelve-year-old cousin alone. Now eighteen, Carmen hasn't yet received her high school diploma after quitting her video-editing internship. So as a last chance, she joins her best friend Waverly at Dreams Come True, a business that allows parties to hire Disney princes and princesses. Cast as Belle, Carmen thinks the summer is going to be all toddlers' parties with no air-conditioning and stingy parents who don't tip. But she soon learns from her boss that Dreams Come True has been booked for a quinceanera in town. And not just any quinceanera, but the delayed one for Ariana Garces, the spoiled cousin who caused the cancellation of Carmen's photoshoot and made their families stop talking for three and a half years. Now she must spend nearly every day rehearsing while trying to avoid Ariana as much as possible. But Mauro has come back to Miami after his freshman year of college to work with Carmen, making them dance partners. Does she want to give him another chance, or is their relationship strictly in the past? There were some great party-princess moments I thought were funny or always wondered how much they actually happen, like when they had to stop and get out of their van while a crew member changed costumes mid-drive, or when a kid caught the actor playing the Beast without his costume head. I've never seen a book with this type of work, and it was cool to see the real lives of the performers Carmen, Waverly, Mauro, Matt, Jessica and Leila. Carmen is also worried about fitting into a stereotype or being viewed as "trashy," since she isn't going to college in the fall and her former classmates already have an idea of what kind of girl does that. She is supportive of Waverly's plans, though, and I really liked their friendship. But the only reason I didn't give this book five stars is because near the end, Carmen becomes really unlikable and tries to cut people out of her life for no good reason, sometimes even after they've done something nice for them. I liked that Waverly was willing to tell her this, but she didn't really listen. She's even willing to selfishly ruin parts of Ariana's party, and I struggled to reason why.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adri

    CWs: allusions to sexual harassment in the workplace, HP references, sexist slurs, mentions of underage drinking, some unchallenged fatphobia, catcalling/sexual harassment, allusions to cultural appropriation, references to sex, some violence/physical assault, some exploration of parental estrangement Sadly, this was a book that started out promising enough, but quickly disappointed me. At first glance, this story is right up my alley, because it's about a young Latinx teen enduring quinceañe CWs: allusions to sexual harassment in the workplace, HP references, sexist slurs, mentions of underage drinking, some unchallenged fatphobia, catcalling/sexual harassment, allusions to cultural appropriation, references to sex, some violence/physical assault, some exploration of parental estrangement Sadly, this was a book that started out promising enough, but quickly disappointed me. At first glance, this story is right up my alley, because it's about a young Latinx teen enduring quinceañera shenanigans and family drama, all with the promise of tackling classism and prejudice along with a second chance romance. It started out interestingly enough with Carmen struggling through her summer job of being a "party princess" (AKA a Disney princess rip-off as the entertainment for kids' birthday parties and special events) while being forced to work with her ex, but sadly I began to lose interest the more the story wore on. One my biggest issues with this story is that all the tension is stemming from events that not only happened before the story began, but that largely exist off the page. In a nutshell: when Carmen was younger, her family had a big fall-out with her aunt and her cousin where something scandalous happened at a party and thus cancelled Carmen's own quinceañera. This is where a large part of the animosity between Carmen and her cousin, Ariana, stems from, and it's also connected to why she and her ex, Mauro, broke up. Even summing that up in one sentence feels convoluted, and because that backstory was so hard to parse and yet so integral to the story itself, that made it hard to contextualize the book as a whole, even as more and more of what happened That Night is gradually revealed. Even in its full context by the end, it doesn't make much sense, and that lack of clarity makes it hard to understand the already-existing dynamics between the characters as the story progresses. Besides the family drama being so convoluted to the point where this book felt like it needed a separate prequel to understand it, I found the characters to be mostly unsympathetic. There was a lot of unchallenged misogyny present in the story, and there was also a lot of toxic machismo being perpetuated by the "romantic lead," which made it hard for me, personally, to root for both the characters and the relationship. I'm not someone who thinks a character has to be "likeable" to have value, but it was hard for me to understand Carmen's motivations, and what little character development she experienced by the end didn't resonate with me. All in all, this was not a memorable or meaningful reading experience for me. I had high hopes going into it because it felt like a promising Latinx YA summer romance that was setting up for some major character redemption, but it mostly left me feeling confused and empty. To this story's credit, it's a quick and relatively entertaining contemporary story full of shenanigans and drama, but ultimately I didn't glean anything from it beyond the surface-level appeal.

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