Amigas Playing for Keeps


By Veronica Chambers

Formats and Prices




$8.99 CAD




ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 7, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

It’s time for some Texas-sized adventure for Amigas Incorporated! After throwing dozens of quinceaneras for strangers, friends, and plenty of quince-zillas, Alicia, Carmen, Jamie, and Gaz could use a vacation. Unfortunately, with all their time spent planning, they’ve forgotten to make their own plans — for Spring Break! So when Alicia’s mom mentions she has a friend who wants to throw a quinceanera for her daughter — in Texas — the group figures they can combine fun and business. Soon they are heading South. Alicia is excited to meet her new client, Jamie is pumped she can see her boyfriend compete in a big golf tournament, Carmen is looking forward to hanging with her cousins, and Gaz is psyched to be attending the South by Southwest music conference and concert. But with so much going on, it is hard to stay on task. Will Alicia be able to rein in the group or will the drama have her heading for new pastures?


Copyright © 2011 Jane Startz Productions and Nuyorican Productions

SXSW® and South by Southwest® are registered trademarks of SXSW Inc.

All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

ISBN 978-1-4231-4613-1


For Magda and Sophia, mis sobrinas queridas.


For all my amigas—Adin, Ellen, Helen, Robin, Kate, Zoë, Marika, Wendy, Marie, Judy, Jen, Cheryl, and Mazal. Thanks for enriching my life. And for Peter and Jesse—you’ve both got game.


FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Alicia Cruz did not start her quinceañera planning business to be popular. As the wealthy and beautiful daughter of one of Miami’s most prominent power couples, she’d never lacked for friends. But ever since Alicia, along with her best friends—Carmen Ramirez-Ruben, Jamie Sosa, and Gaz Colón (who was now Alicia’s boyfriend as well)—had formed Amigas Incorporated and in the process planned more than twenty of the hottest Sweet Fifteen parties in the greater Miami area, her profile at Coral Gables High School had never been higher.

Every afternoon, when the four friends sat at their table in the school cafeteria—second from the right, near the sliding doors, with floor-to-ceiling views of the school’s lush, tropical campus—they were flooded with visits from C. G. High students hoping to get a little free quince advice.

On this particular Thursday, Alicia, Carmen, and Jamie had just sat down to eat a lunch supplied by Maribelle Puentes, the Cruz family cook and Alicia’s de facto grandmother. Maribelle had recently started dating Tomás, a Peruvian Japanese chef from the trendy restaurant Nobu Miami, and as a testament to their relationship had added sushi-making to her repertoire of already impressive culinary skills.

Alicia handed both of her friends a small tin bento box, professionally packed in an insulated bag.

“Maribelle wanted you guys to try some, too,” Alicia explained, opening her lunchbox to reveal twelve perfect, restaurant-quality Japanese sushi rolls. “I’m in heaven,” she sighed. “Yellowtail scallion rolls.”

“Spicy shrimp tempura hand rolls, my favorite,” Jamie said, tucking in to her sushi.

Carmen, who’d already popped a bite of tuna tataki into her mouth, pointed to her face and offered a thumbs-up. “Chicas,” she sighed contentedly when she finished chewing, “I truly don’t think our lives could get any better than this—sunny weather, yummy food, and hot boyfriends. How cool is that?”

She wasn’t lying. Her hot boyfriend was Domingo Quintero, a senior at Hialeah High and a waiter at Bongos, the group’s favorite restaurant, which was famous for its frequent celebrity sightings and delicious virgin mojitos. Not only was he super good-looking, he also happened to be supernice.

Earlier that year, Jamie had started dating Dash Mortimer, a golf star who was also heir to a considerable fortune. Dash was not your typical Latin guy, which had caused some issues when he first showed interest in hotheaded Jamie. His late mom had been a Venezuelan beauty queen, and his father traced his family’s lineage back to the Mayflower. Amigas Inc. had been hired to plan a quince for Binky, Dash’s socialite sister, which was how he had met Jamie. They both fell hard. A fierce salsa dancer, Dash moved with the confidence of a gifted athlete, and had been the only guy to break down the tough-girl exterior Jamie had rocked since she’d moved to Miami from the Bronx.

“Speaking of boyfriends, I wish Gaz was here,” Alicia said with a sigh.

Alicia and Gaz—an aspiring musician, a founding member of Amigas Inc., and formerly one of Alicia’s best friends—had been officially dating now for about a year. “You know how obsessed he is with sushi,” she added, “not to mention Maribelle’s cooking. My bet is that he’s still in the music room, working on some new songs.”

Unfortunately, talk about boyfriends was going to have to be put on hold, because it appeared someone needed their help. The someone was a classmate of theirs, a boy named Nesto.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, coming to stand at the head of their table. “I just have a quick question. This girl I really like, Tia, asked me to be her chambelán de honor at her quinceañera.”

“That sounds great,” Jamie said, causing both Alicia and Carmen to smile. Since Jamie had started dating Dash, she had become more comfortable showing her softer side—a welcome change for her two best friends, who in the past had often found themselves apologizing to their clients for their friend’s extreme bluntness and occasionally acid tongue.

“Congrats,” Carmen mumbled, since he’d caught her in midchew.

“Thanks. I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s not an Amigas Inc. joint, but it should be a good party all the same.”

“So, how can we help?” Alicia asked, getting right to the point.

“I really like this girl,” Nesto said. “But I’ve got about fifty dollars to get her a quince present. All my boys say you’ve got to drop at least a C-note for something nice.”

“Not true,” Jamie said.

“Not at all,” Alicia agreed, finishing up her last piece of sushi.

“Well, I went to the Gap…” Nesto said.

“Not the Gap!” cried Carmen.

“Why not?” asked Nesto, looking perplexed.

“Never the Gap for a quince!” Jamie piped up. “That’s where you go to buy your back-to-school clothes, not the special something for the girl of your dreams. You know what would be perfect?”

Nesto shrugged. “I don’t. That’s why I came to you guys.”

“A charm bracelet,” Alicia said.

“Silver,” Carmen added.

Jamie took out a card and said, “Go to Key and Ree. Ask for Josefina. She’ll help you pick out something nice.”

“And there’s a ten percent discount for Amigas Inc. clients,” Alicia added. “Tell her we sent you.”

Nesto was all smiles as he glanced down at the card and then back at them. “You guys are the best.”

“Glad we could help,” Alicia said.

But there was no rest for the weary. As soon as Nesto walked away, a girl named Liya ran up to their table.

“Hey, I know I’m not one of your clients, but I could really use some advice,” she said.

Alicia looked at her watch. “We’ve got a few more minutes. What’s up?”

“I’m having a Nancy Drew quince,” Liya said.

The girls exchanged curious and amused glances.

“Yeah, I’m really excited. We’re doing a whole murder-mystery game thing. And I need to figure out some favors for one hundred people. And needless to say, I’m on a budget, or I would have totally hired you guys.”

“Hmm, a Nancy Drew–themed favor,” Alicia said. “That’s a tough one.”

She took out her phone and started searching for some options. Thirty seconds later, she had an answer.

“This Web site has a free Nancy Drew bookmark you can download,” Alicia said.

“Then go and get them printed and laminated,” Jamie added.

“Don’t forget to put a picture of you in your quince dress on the back,” Carmen suggested.

“If you have the loot, you could punch a hole in the top and tie a ribbon and add a little chain with your initials,” Jamie said.

Once the amigas started giving quince advice, even pro bono, it was hard for them to stop.

“Perfect!” Liya said, her eyes lighting up. “I’ll order them tonight. I would never have thought of this. You rock!”

“We aim to please,” Alicia said.

“You know, the potential for our business really is limitless,” Jamie said when they were once again blissfully alone. “We could make some sort of discount-coupon book for all the great deals we get around town.”

“I’m already getting a commercial discount at the fabric store,” Carmen said.

Jamie held up her thumb and index finger and said, “We’re this close to having a quince empire.”

As the friends laughed, the bell rang. Grabbing her books, Alicia said, “And I’m this close to failing organic chemistry. I love being the queen of quince, but it’s a full-time job.”

Ay, don’t mention the word fail,” Carmen said. “I wanted to go to the library to research traditional Mexican costumes for dress ideas. But I’ve got to use my study hall to write a draft of my American history paper. See you chicas later.”

Carmen gave her girls a quick hug and took off down the south hallway. Like many historic buildings in South Florida, C. G. High was a one-story art deco building with big windows, white walls, and large open spaces. The halls were lined with brightly lit display cases. Some were filled with trophies won by the school’s varsity football team, the Cavaliers. Others featured writing and artwork from the senior literary magazine, Catharsis, or solicitations for donations for school supplies for C.G.’s sister school in the Dominican Republic.

“I’m going to life drawing,” Jamie said to Alicia. “I’ll walk you to the science class.”

As the girls made their way down the hall they were greeted by other students.

“Nice party last weekend,” a girl with red hair called out.

“Thanks,” Alicia and Jamie said in unison.

“Yo, Gaz said he’d burn me a CD of those tracks he played at Katerina’s quince,” a boy in a C.G. letter jacket called out. “Tell him it’s for Gary.”

“I will,” Alicia said.

Jamie grinned. “It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?”


“It’s like we’re famous,” Jamie said.

A group of girls who had attended Carmen’s multiculti Lati-Jew-na quince honoring her mixed Jewish and Latino heritage walked by and held up the spray-painted bags that Jamie had made for their best friend’s celebration. “Hola y shalom,” the girls called out, using the Spanish and Hebrew words for hello that Jamie had tagged in block-print graffiti on the front and back of each guest’s stylish party favor. Jamie laughed. “You see what I mean?”

Alicia had to agree. In their corner of the world, there was no doubt they really were almost famous. Life, it would seem, couldn’t get much sweeter.

LATER THAT AFTERNOON, Alicia sat at the kitchen table of the Cruz home looking wistfully at the family pool. She had a five-page paper to write about Rigoberta Menchú, a fascinating woman and Nobel Prize–winner from Guatemala who had been a worldwide advocate for the rights of her native Mayan people. Despite the plethora of material, Alicia was not feeling inspired. Maybe, just maybe, a quick swim would help clear her head.

She got up from the table and began to imagine the cool, fresh water of the pool on her back when a voice stopped her. “Sweetie, stay focused.”

Turning around, she saw that Maribelle had come to stand in the doorway. In her hands, she held grocery bags.

Alicia walked over, welcoming the distraction. How could Maribelle argue if the procrastination helped her? She began to unpack the groceries.

“What’s for dinner?” she asked.

“I thought I would do a ceviche with scallops and cod.”

“Did I hear the word ceviche?” Alicia’s mother said as she walked into the room. She kicked off her shoes, a pair of mock-crocodile platform pumps that Alicia had coveted from the moment that her mother had bought them.

Marisol Cruz was one of Miami’s toughest judges, and she dressed the part. Her designer suits and power dresses were always courtroomworthy. Alicia saw herself more as a creative type. Her fashion sense was as keen as her mother’s, but it reflected a more bohemian sense of style and attitude that always worked with Alicia’s dark eyes, flawless skin, and wavy brown hair.

That wasn’t to say that she wasn’t organized—and sometimes, in fact, even seemed to have borderline OCD. She handled everything for Amigas Inc., from choreography to coming up with ideas for set designs that were often executed by Alex, her handsome older brother, who was an aspiring architecture student.

Now, as Alicia looked at her mom, barefoot in a charcoal gray sheath with a lovely draped cowl neck, she thought, not for the first time, that even if they weren’t similar now, she wouldn’t mind growing up to be like her mother. When she was handling the business end of things, Alicia already enjoyed stepping out of her I’m-a-creative-artist box and doing a Marisol Cruz imitation. She brought to the job that fierce combination of capability and intelligence that had made her mom a star, even during her days at Harvard Law School.

Unaware of her daughter’s silent appraisal, Marisol Cruz kissed Maribelle on each cheek, European-style, then came over and gave her only daughter a big hug. “¿Qué pasa, niña?” she asked. “How’s it going with Rigoberta Menchú?”

“Don’t ask,” Alicia said, groaning. “I’m having a really hard time concentrating. I feel like my brain is flipping back and forth between a hundred things at once. How do you keep yourself on track, Mami?”

“Not easily,” laughed her mother. “I have a lot of notes and a lot of reminders, and sometimes, I don’t focus as well as I’d like. It’s part of being human.”

“I guess,” Alicia said. “But still…” Her voice trailed off as the smell of cooking filled the room.

Maribelle had begun to make fresh tortilla chips. Cutting the small flour tortillas into quarters, she then plopped them into the cast-iron pan, in which sizzled canola oil. The moment she took the first batch of tortillas out of the pan, Alicia grabbed one and popped it in her mouth.

“Let it cool!” Maribelle warned.

“But they’re so good when they’re hot,” Alicia countered, grabbing another.

“I couldn’t agree more,” her mother said, reaching for her own chip.

Maribelle shooed them both away. “Out of my kitchen! The salsa is not even made yet, and there will be no more chips at the rate you two are going.”

Alicia and her mother laughed but did as they were told. Food was a shared passion in the Cruz household, and that meant following Maribelle’s strict, albeit tender, rules.

Mrs. Cruz joined Alicia at the kitchen table, where Maribelle had put out a fresh pitcher of lemonade. She poured her daughter a glass and then poured one for herself.

“So, I know I should be letting you get back to your paper. You know how I hate to interrupt you while you’re doing your schoolwork…” Marisol began.

“Please, please, interrupt me,” Alicia begged her.

Marisol chuckled. “Well, if you insist. I was just wondering if you’ve given any thought to spring break.”

Alicia hadn’t. In fact, she, Carmen, Jamie, and Gaz had been so busy planning quinces, keeping up with their schoolwork, and making time for their relationships that they’d totally forgotten about spring break. It wasn’t until one of their customers mentioned plans to take a trip to Key West that they all remembered.

“It’s a complete bummer,” Alicia said. “We’ve been working so hard, and for once we all have a little money socked away. But Jamie’s checked everything out, and we’ve got nothing, nada to look forward to while we’re on vacation. All of the best concerts are sold out. The beaches and Bongos will be filled with partying college students. Our current plan was to get some great books, check into Club Cruz, and do the one thing there is to do in Miami during spring break if you don’t want to end up in somebody’s embarrassing homemade YouTube video or worse—stay cool, perfect your backstroke, and hang out by the pool.”

“Does Club Cruz mean I cook for you and all your friends?” Maribelle asked, bringing over a bowl of the tortilla chips and a cup of homemade salsa.

Alicia dipped a chip and smiled. “Only if we’re very lucky.”

“You got that right,” Maribelle said.

“Well, I’ve got another offer, if you’re interested,” her mother said mysteriously.

Alicia raised an eyebrow and waited.

“Do you remember my old law school friend Ranya?”

“Not really,” Alicia replied. “But go on.”

“Ranya’s at a law firm in Austin, Texas, and she’s got a daughter, Valeria, who is just about your age,” Alicia’s mom explained. “I sent her the write-up that the Miami Herald did on you and Amigas Inc., and she was very impressed.”

Alicia smiled at the pride she detected in her mother’s voice. The summer before, when she had decided to form Amigas Incorporated, her mother had been her most vocal critic—worrying that a party-planning business was not a serious venture for her daughter. But once she had attended the first quince that Amigas planned, she realized that the company’s goal to create a quinceañera that was more than just a party, but a celebration of a culture and a time-honored tradition welcoming Latina girls into womanhood, was a good one.

As the business grew and the company began to receive not only more customers than they could handle, but also coverage from local newspapers and TV, Marisol Cruz grew even prouder. By the time Amigas Inc. was featured in the Miami Herald, she was a hundred percent behind the business. She even had seventy-five copies of the article from the paper printed up and sent to her friends and colleagues across the country.


On Sale
Oct 7, 2011
Page Count
208 pages

Veronica Chambers

About the Author

Veronica Chambers is a prolific author, best known for her critically acclaimed memoir, Mama’s Girl, which has been course adopted by hundreds of high schools and colleges throughout the country. Her other nonfiction books include Kickboxing Geishas: How Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation and The Joy of Doing Things Badly: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Life and Foolish Bravery. She has also written more than a dozen books for children and spent two seasons as an executive story editor for the CW’s hit series, Girlfriends. A graduate of Simon’s Rock College at Bard, she lives with her husband and daughter in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Learn more about this author