5 Minutes for Books – Part 1 – Fifteen Candles

by Jennifer Donovan

This review is authored by regular contributor Jennifer Donovan, book lover and mother of two of book lovers, who blogs at Snapshot.

Fifteen Candles is one of two book reviews today. To read the second one, and find out the winners from last week’s reviews, click here.

Fifteen Candles

Do you remember planning your wedding with your mother? Do you remember the stress? Imagine instead of a bride a fifteen-year-old girl who is celebrating her arrival into womanhood. The fifteen essays in Fifteen Candles each tell a story about a particular Latina (or Latino in a few cases) and his or her experience with the Quinceanera. We Anglo-Americans celebrate Sweet Sixteen, but in the Hispanic culture, the magic digits are 15.

I grew up in Houston, Texas so alongside the pictures of the brides in the newspaper, there were also debutantes and quinces. At the time, I did not really know why these young girls were dressed up like brides. Reading this book has been a glimpse into that culture. The stories come from girls living in the southern United States, the east and west coasts, and a couple who hail from South America and Cuba.

This is basically a collection of memoirs grouped by a common theme. I have never been a short story fan (or so I thought), but I loved that I could sit down and read one of the twenty-page stories in a single sitting. I have become a fan of memoir over this last year because it’s like hearing someone’s story. As I read I find out who they are and what in their life has shaped them into the person that they have
become. The added dimension to this particular group of stories is that they are told from a teenager’s point of view (most of whom were teenagers in the 80′s just like me). Having a daughter who is getting closer to those teen years every day has made me want to be able to jump into the heads of teenagers. Reading them reminds me of my hopes and struggles as a young teen while also alerting me to what she is going to be facing herself in those years.

The Quinceanera (which is the name of the celebration, but also the title for the girl of honor) frets about dates, guest lists, her dress, her court, and her relatives. The Quinceanera celebration marks a coming of age, and these stories are coming of age stories, so there is expectedly some adult language, along with underage drinking and “romantic” exploration.

Because I know that fiction (and creative non-fiction, which is how memoir is often classified) varies widely in regard to content, I have designed a rating system, similar to what you would see at the movies, but with slightly different descriptions, to help our readers decide if a particular book would be of interest to them. You can read about it in my profile here. I would rate most of the stories in this anthology PG, but a few of them are PG-13, and at least one is R (the first one, which I found offensive, so you might just choose to skip it), but I’m so glad that I kept reading, because I enjoyed the others.

In fact, the very next story in the collection, “Love Rehearsals” by Angie Cruz, might have been my favorite. Angie gets to be in the court of her best friend’s cousin. Part of the responsibility of the court is the elaborate dance which involves organized rehearsals to learn the choreography. All of this, including the blossoming romance between her and her partner Junior, was a secret from her mom. I thought that this was such a perfect reminder of a young teen’s life:

“Embarrassment. That is how I can sum up being fourteen. I don’t mean to imply that at fourteen I was horribly embarrassed all the time. It was worse. It just waited there, lurked there, ready to strike at the least expected moment” (page 53).

If you’ve never tried memoir, but you like short stories, or if you are already a fan of memoir or stories featuring teen angst, you will probably enjoy this collection. The publisher has donated three copies of this book, so if you would like to win, leave a comment by Friday and come back Monday to see who has won.

This review is authored by regular contributor Jennifer Donovan, who blogs at Snapshot.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela July 30, 2007 at 1:20 am

Oh my gosh! I would love love love love love to win a copy of this book! (Can you tell that I am interested?) Reading it will bring me back to when I was 15 and was selected to be in the court of one of my closest friends Alejandra. It was an amazing experience, particularly since I am not Hispanic. The dances, the handmade dresses, the feeling of the night- phenomenal!


2 stephanie July 30, 2007 at 8:52 am

Sounds good!


3 Lauren July 30, 2007 at 10:59 am

Please count me in!


4 Myrna July 30, 2007 at 1:54 pm

count me in please


5 Caryn July 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Sounds great


6 Amy R. July 30, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Sounds interesting!


7 Natalie July 30, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I’m so intriqued by this idea! I’d love to read the book.


8 Piseco July 31, 2007 at 8:21 am

We’re adopting a baby girl from Central America… I would love to read stories about quinces and the way the big 15 is celebrated in the US.


9 Jenn in AZ July 31, 2007 at 10:53 am

Thanks for the opportunity!


10 Thrills July 31, 2007 at 2:14 pm

I would love to read this book.


11 Amy T July 31, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I would love to win this book.


12 Bev August 1, 2007 at 1:11 am

This is my entry.


13 Jodi August 1, 2007 at 10:18 am

Count me in!!!


14 Sarajeen August 1, 2007 at 11:35 am

Please enter me into this one!


15 Rhonda Toews August 1, 2007 at 4:40 pm

I’d love to win this!


16 Karen August 1, 2007 at 4:41 pm

Please enter me to win:-)


17 Janne August 1, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Sounds like an interesting book. Sign me up, please.


18 Stacey August 3, 2007 at 10:07 am



19 Dawn August 3, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Please count me in on this!


20 Briggie, Woodbury, NJ August 3, 2007 at 3:23 pm

my husband is from Puerto Rico and we just love to party… my youngest one, Tylar, will celebrate her Quinceanera next July and it would be so nice to give to her – please count me in…


21 PEA August 6, 2007 at 8:08 am

I hope it’s not too late to enter the draw!! I’d love to read this book!! xo


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