Lights Camera Quince!


By Veronica Chambers

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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.

Amigas is officially open for business! Alicia, Jamie, Carmen and Gaz managed to throw an amazing quince for their new friend Sarita. But now that they are sophomores AND in the quince planning business, things are going to get more complicated. Luckily, one of their own is having a quince. Carmen is turning fifteen and the rest of the friends are determined to throw her the best party ever. But in Miami, the heat is always on–and so is the drama. When the group is asked to take part in a reality show featuring quinceanera parties, they all jump at the chance. But being under the spotlight brings out the true colors of the group and before anyone can even cry “action!”, Alicia is fighting with Gaz, Carmen is worrying about her vows, and Jamie is feeling left out. With the cameras rolling, will Carmen’s party go up in flames?


Copyright © 2010 Jane Startz Productions and Nuyorican Productions

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 978-1-4231-4610-0


For Chris, Rose, Jeff, and Lily,

who do the father-daughter vals so well.


To my incredible husband, Peter Barton, and my great children—and dear friends—Jesse, Kate, Zoë, and to all my amigas, who make my life so rich and satisfying.

Many thanks to all and much love.


“I’VE NEVER BEEN so exhausted in my entire life,” Alicia Cruz groaned. “Exactly how many quinceañeras did we plan this summer?” she asked her friend and fellow Amigas Incorporated cohort Jamie Sosa.

“I’d say somewhere around . . . a gazillion,” Jamie replied, her voice sounding strained as she stuffed a trash can with streamers.

Alicia nodded. The number felt right even though she knew Jamie had been exaggerating. She plopped down on the floor, not caring if it was filthy.

She was wearing her version of cleanup clothes: a white Ay! Vena Cava T, a pair of her dad’s old cutoff shorts, and one of her mother’s hand-me-down Gucci belts, for some retro bling. Even on a dedicated clean-up-and-run-errands day like this, Alicia believed that you had to bring it, fashionwise. Especially in Miami, where you never knew whom you were going to run into. But it was mid-August, not even lunchtime, and already over a hundred degrees. And as any native-born South Florida girl knows, heat rises. Sometimes, lying on the floor was the only option for staying cool, even if it didn’t look fashionable.

Jamie quickly joined Alicia on the wooden planks of the gym floor. Ever the transplanted New Yorker, Jamie dressed like somebody out of a scene from the classic hip-hop movie Beat Street, and today she rocked a pair of vintage black Run-DMC frames. Her long brown hair was pulled to the side in a ponytail, and on her feet she wore a pair of limited-edition, only-available-in-Tokyo A Bathing Ape kicks.

“No one ever tells you about the ugly side of party planning,” Jamie moaned, pointing to the piles and piles of garbage and recyclables they’d spent the whole morning picking up. The night before, they’d hosted a Hoops There It Is! quinceañera, complete with a free-throw contest and a dunking trampoline for the birthday girl who, though only in the tenth grade, was already six foot two and hoped to play in the WNBA. The party had been a lot of fun, but it had also been a ton of work. And because the school had been kind enough to let them host the event in the gym at no charge, they felt obligated to do a meticulous cleanup job.

“’Sup?” Carmen said, as she strolled into the gym and joined her friends on the floor. Carmen Ramirez-Ruben was the epitome of the girl who didn’t try too hard. The fact that she was model-tall with flawless caramelo skin and bright hazel eyes didn’t hurt, though. On a low-key day she could make even an understated wardrobe pop.

“What’s up is, we’ve been working so hard all summer long,” Jamie answered. “So, remind me: why aren’t we filthy rich?”

“Because we’re still learning,” Alicia explained. “We would’ve made five thousand dollars this summer, remember. But we spent most of it on a new van for Gaz.”

Gaspar Colón, Gaz for short, had resisted joining the girls and taking a spot on the floor. He’d recently been promoted to assistant manager at the Gap, where he worked part-time. To mark the occasion, he’d begun dressing nicer. Today he wore a new pair of pressed khakis, a plaid shirt, and a camel-colored tie. Not floor wear.

Now he looked down at Alicia and raised an eyebrow. “Hey, the Amigas crew didn’t buy me anything,” he protested, finally succumbing to the need to sit. Taking a towel from his gym bag, he joined the others on the floor. “The van is for our business. We need it for running errands, picking up flowers, catering. . . .”

“Shuttling disoriented abuelas from the wrong address . . .” Alicia said.

“To the right address,” Gaz finished, reaching out and squeezing her hand.

Jamie rolled her eyes. “Are you guys still in the middle of that—what do you call it?”

“Flirtationship,” Gaz and Alicia said at the same time.

“Is that even a real word?” Carmen asked.

“It’s real to us,” Gaz said, still holding on to Alicia’s hand.

“And it means . . . ?” Carmen asked.

With Gaz holding her hand, Alicia felt the temperature in the room go up ten degrees. But she remained composed and simply replied, “It means we flirt. And we hold hands. But we don’t go any further. . . .”

“Because our friendship is the most important thing,” said Gaz, completing her sentence.

“Color me cynical,” Jamie said. “But your ‘flirtationship’ sounds a lot like dating to me.”

Alicia replied, “Our business, not your business.”

“As opposed to the business of quinceañeras, which is all of our business,” Carmen said. “Can you believe that a simple plan to help the new girl in town put together her quince has grown into such a huge business?”

“Well, quinces are major,” Alicia pointed out.

“Especially in Miami,” Jamie added.

The quinceañera, or Sweet Fifteen, was more than just a birthday party. In Latin families, the fifteenth year marked a major coming-of-age ritual: it was when a girl became a woman. Just three months before, Alicia had agreed to help a new girl, Sarita Lopez, plan her big day. This inspired Alicia to start Amigas Incorporated and rope her crew into helping. Along the way, Alicia, the de facto team leader, went a little quince-zilla, but in the end they’d all learned a lot about starting a business while keeping friendships intact. Luckily it had all turned out well, and now their in-boxes and voice mail were flooded with girls who wanted them to plan their quinces, too.

Alicia sat up and pulled her iPhone out of her purse. “Anyone up for a trip down memory lane?” Nodding, Gaz, Jamie, and Carmen gathered around her, eager for any excuse to postpone cleanup.

From the beginning, Alicia had been videotaping the parties they planned with her phone and putting the two-minute clips up on YouTube. They were Amigas Inc.’s best form of promotion—and their favorite form of entertainment.

Alicia now went to YouTube and called up a video of Sarita getting ready for her quinceañera. She was dressed in a Juicy Couture orange hoodie, a white tank, and navy blue shorts. Smiling at the camera she said, “Well, everybody, it’s my big day. It’s not even noon yet, but we’ve all been up for hours. My cousins and tías are in the living room, working on the favors.”

The camera followed her into the small living room, where no fewer than thirty relatives sat on every available space. It looked like everyone was going into battle mode, not getting ready for a party.

Sarita was then seen going into her bedroom. “My damas are getting their hair and makeup done in here,” she said.

In the sunny yellow bedroom, seven teenage girls in robes and slips crowded around the full-length mirror on the closet wall.

“There are seven damas, or girlfriends,” Sarita explained. “There are seven chambelanes, who are usually your guy friends or your family. The quince—that’s me—makes number fifteen!” She paused and gave the camera a huge grin. “Of course, I have to give a shout-out to Amigas Inc. for hooking the new girl up with the dopest quince in town!”

The clip ended, and Alicia scrolled through more videos until she found the one she wanted to view next. “Do you guys remember Ana Mary?”

“You mean, the Queen Bee?” Gaz asked, sarcastically.

On-screen, a girl stood in the ballroom of one of Miami’s hip downtown hotels. Black and yellow streamers covered the wall, and barrels made to look like oversize honeycombs overflowed with sparkling apple cider.

“Those honeycombs were a nice touch,” Carmen pointed out.

“Jamie’s idea,” Alicia said. “We should get you a T-shirt that says, Innovator in the House.”

Jamie grinned. “As long as I get to design the logo.”

Alicia nodded and hit play on Ana Mary’s clip.

“Hello, hello,” Ana Mary said, flipping her long hair. “My colors are yellow and black, because my favorite animal is the bumblebee.”

“She says it like a bumblebee is a type of pet,” Jamie said, shaking her head.

“I’ve always liked bees, because I kind of see myself as the queen bee,” Ana Mary went on, revealing a mouth full of braces. “Mess with me and you’ll get stung.”

“She’s not lying about that,” Carmen said.

“Tonight I’m wearing a custom-made dress inspired by Herve Leger,” Ana Mary said, spinning around like a fashion model.

“‘Custom-made,’ meaning I remade that dress a dozen times,” Carmen growled. “First, she wanted it long, then she wanted it short. She wanted a train. She wanted a mini. She’d never even heard of Herve Leger before I showed her pictures of his dresses in InStyle magazine.”

The group nodded, understanding their friend’s frustration. Then they turned back to the phone’s small screen.

“All of my damas are wearing exclusive Ana Mary designs,” she continued, walking past a line of seven miserable-looking girls. “The damas are in yellow. My chambelanes are all in black.”

Carmen reached over Alicia’s shoulder and hit pause. “She means, Exclusive Carmen Ramirez-Ruben designs. That girl . . . That girl . . .” She lunged toward the phone as if she could have strangled Ana Mary through it.

“We know, we know,” Alicia said. “She was bad.”

“She was more than bad, she was the worst,” Carmen fumed.

“And that wasn’t even the most irritating thing she did,” Gaz said, taking the phone from Alicia, clearly enjoying the fact that Carmen, who was always the mellow one, was nearly ready to explode. “Let’s roll the film and see just how bad she got.”

He hit play.

The clip showed Ana Mary turning away from a row of teenage boys, slumping against the ballroom wall, and smirking at the camera. “They all have crushes on me. They can’t help it. I’m just so hot.”

“Ay,” Carmen said. “Turn it off, she’s giving me a headache!”

Headaches and self-absorbed girls aside, quinceañeras were important, and it was the group’s job to make sure everyone was happy in the end—not an easy task, obviously.

With so much money on the table—some families had saved up for a girl’s party from the moment she was born—and so much familia involved, things could get a little hairy. Moms went nuts over quinces and became mom-zillas. The quince could begin to throw attitude and turn into a quince-zilla.

Which is why Amigas Inc.’s cell phones had been ringing off the hook for the past few months. They were a one-stop quince-planning business—cool enough for girls to dig their style, and responsible enough to earn the trust of parents with big money at stake. They’d planned seven successful parties in three short months. And while the end result had been great, the cost was high. They were all seriously tired.

“We need a vacation,” Alicia said after she’d put away her phone.

“That’s the truth,” Gaz answered.

Suddenly, Jamie sat bolt upright, all exhaustion gone. “Alicia! You’re a genius!” Jamie exclaimed. “You guys should totally come with me to the Freestyle Convention in New York; it’s going to be off the hook. My Facebook friend, Yoshi, is coming in from Osaka, and he said that I could show my sneaks at his booth. There’s going to be hundreds of vendors—kicks men, ’boarders, clothing designers, DJs. Yoshi says that M.I.A. and Rye Rye are even going to do an unannounced concert.”

Gaz’s eyes lit up. “I could drop my band’s CDs off at some record companies,” he said. “There’s this A&R guy I’ve been talking to on MySpace. I could look him up.”

“It sounds amazing, and I would give anything to see the fabric shops in New York City,” Carmen added, looking at Jamie. “But what about the little matter of school? Summer is almost over. You’re my girl and everything, but my mom’s a teacher; she won’t go for me skipping classes.”

“And while I may indeed be a ‘genius,’ you know Judge Cruz is tough on fun,” Alicia added.

“No big deal,” Jamie said, shrugging. “Freestyle is Columbus Day weekend. We leave Friday after school; we come back Monday night. No school missed.”

“Do you know what I could do with three days in New York?” Alicia asked, her eyes widening at the possibility. “I could take a Limón dance class at the Ballet Hispanico. Of course, I’d have to check out Frida’s Self Portrait with Cropped Hair at the Museum of Modern Art and Iliana Garcia’s Yo Quiero at the Museo del Barrio. I’d need to go to dinner at Café Habana and lunch at ’wichcraft, because I love watching Tom Colicchio on Top Chef. I’d also have to go to Barney’s to see the shoes, the Brooklyn Bridge for the views, and I would definitely swing by NYU Film School, because lately, I’ve been thinking that what I really want to do is direct.”

When Alicia took a moment to breathe, Jamie, Gaz, and Carmen started laughing.

“What?” she said. “You’re thinking I’m nuts if I don’t see a Broadway show, right? I gotta do that, too.”

“You’re my girl,” Jamie said, still chuckling, “but your definition of what you can do in three days and a normal person’s definition of what they could do in three days are very, very different.”

“Exactamente,” Gaz said.

“What he said,” Carmen added.

“So, we go to New York for the weekend; Alicia goes for a week or a month,” Gaz said, clearly warming up to the idea. “But where would we stay?”

It was a good question. The four friends lay back down on the floor. From overhead, they looked like the points of a star. Gaz’s head and Alicia’s touched slightly. Jamie was stretched out next to Alicia, and Carmen was squeezed between Jamie and Gaz. It was cool on the floor, and for a moment there was no sound except for the old-school air conditioners huffing and puffing.

“I’ve got mad cousins in New York,” Jamie finally offered. “You could stay with my cousin Hector. Me and the girls could stay with my tía Digna and her kids.”

“I hate to burst the bubble, but how are we going to raise enough money to go to New York?” Alicia asked.

“I’ve put every penny I’ve got into inventory for the show. If I sell all of my sneaks, I’ll be rolling in loot,” Jamie said.

“But that won’t get us to New York. To cover all of our tickets and meals, we need to raise at least a thousand dollars,” Gaz said matter-of-factly. “And that’s if we get a sweet deal—and our parents say yes.”

Alicia sat up, a determined look on her face. She never backed down from a challenge. “Well, you know what that means,” she said. “We’re just going to have to plan another quince.”

Carmen, Jamie, and Gaz groaned, their eyes gazing at the piles of streamers, linen tablecloths, and empty soda cans that were piled up along the gym walls.

“I didn’t even want to hear that word for at least another month,” Gaz complained.

“It’s the easiest, most fun way for us to raise enough money to go to New York,” Alicia replied.

“I’m down,” Jamie said at last, her eyes beginning to light up. “Raise enough money to go to Freestyle. Roll in there with my crew. It doesn’t get any better than that. But there is another small problem. To make the money in time, we needed to have booked another quince, like, yesterday.”

“I’ll put a notice on our Web site,” Alicia said. “There’s bound to be some chica who waited until the very last minute to start planning the most important day of her life.”

Jamie sat up. “Okay. But call me as soon as you get somebody.”

“No need,” Carmen said, stopping Jamie as she started to leave. “Amigas Incorporated can plan my quince. My birthday’s October first.”

ALICIA AND CARMEN walked along the canals toward Carmen’s house. This was one of Alicia’s favorite parts of Miami. It was like a tropical version of her favorite children’s book, The Secret Garden. There was a giant stone staircase that led into an amazingly green world. Palm trees created a canopy over the canals, and blue-green water trickled down, the tiniest of rivers. Some of the residents along the canal kept tiny wooden boats docked near their houses.

Alicia could always tell Carmen’s house by the small turquoise-blue boat with the bright red number eight lying outside the front door. It was a model that one of Carmen’s siblings had made—and then abandoned in short order. The 8 represented the eight people who lived in the house. Carmen’s family was huge: there was her mother, Sophia; her stepdad, Christian; her older sister, Una; her brother, Tino; and her three stepsisters, Lindsay, Laura, and Lula.

At the moment, however, the idyllic setting was lost on Alicia. She had other things on her mind. “I can’t believe I forgot your birthday,” she groaned, putting her arm around her friend. “We’ve been so busy, but still . . . how could we forget the most important


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.

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