Amigas: Fifteen Candles, created by Jane Startz, but written by Veronica Chambers, is the first book of a new series in juvenile fiction for girls. I don’t know how the author pitched her book, but I would call it, “The new Baby Sitter’s Club for young Latinas.”
The story revolves around a group of friends in Miami who create a party planning business to help one of their friends throw the quinceñera of her dreams, (on her parent’s limited budget, of course.)
At times the main character, Alicia Cruz, comes off as a spoiled brat but despite the mansion and personal chef, girls will relate to her very normal teenage troubles, (though possibly fantasize about such an idealized life.)
Refreshingly, Alicia is properly contrasted by a cast of diverse Latina characters from all types of financial and ethnic backgrounds. One thing I especially liked was the fact that the characters also range in Spanish-speaking ability – from completely fluent, to not speaking a word – I think that is something most U.S. Latinas can relate to.
Over all, the book is fun, though somewhat silly from an adult perspective, (it wasn’t written for us anyway!) The Amigas series will give young Latinas drowning in a world of Anglo everything, a little dose of cultura and characters they can identify with. Though these books would never replace more substantial classics such as Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street, or How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez, the series succeeds at providing a positive message for young Latinas with themes ranging from the benefits of teamwork, to inspiring an entrepreneurial spirit.