At school, Lorena has made a new friend—a boy who is “gay as a rainbow-colored unicorn.” The boy goes by the nickname Juanga, and Julia hates him immediately. In history class, Lorena tells Julia that Juanga has invited them to a big masquerade ball in downtown Chicago—it’s going to huge, and Lorena wants to go. Julia refuses, blaming her overprotective mother. Lorena passes Julia a surprisingly well-forged permission slip for an overnight field trip on school letterhead, telling Julia that if she misses the party, she’s going to be sorry.
Julia and Lorena have always been best friends—and when Lorena finds a new friend, Julia feels both jealousy and a desire to keep up and not fall into second place. To do so, she knows she has to deceive Amá and risk getting in even more trouble—but is determined to do whatever it takes to remain Lorena’s number one.
Julia brings the fake permission slip home to Amá, who tells Julia she can’t go on the trip without even looking at the form. Julia begs her to just take a look at it, but Amá replies that Julia, who can’t even “make a tortilla,” is not ready for “grown-up” things. Furious, Julia complains about never being able to get out of their “stupid neighborhood.” Amá vindictively states that Olga never felt the need to go out and see the world—she was content at home. Crying, Julia stalks off to her room.
This passage shows just how deeply distrustful and contentious Julia and Amá’s relationship really is. Julia resents her mother for keeping her trapped at home—and for constantly comparing her to the saint-like Olga, made even more perfect in death. The pattern thus far in the book is constant, and destructive, but neither can break out of it.
On Friday night—the night of the masquerade—Julia reads in the living room until her parents are asleep, and then stuffs pillows into her bed and sneaks out to meet Juanga and Lorena on the street. When Juanga pulls up, he tells Julia that though he doesn’t have a driver’s license, he’ll get them to the party in one piece.
Julia is determined not to miss out on fun with Lorena and Juanga. She even puts herself in danger—allowing the unlicensed Juanga to drive her—to avoid being left out because of her parents’ restrictive rules. Again the novel shows how restrictions naturally lead to rebellion, while also hinting at how that rebellion, while understandable, can be destructive.
At the party in a large warehouse apartment in a trendy neighborhood, Julia finds herself dreaming of having a place like it to herself one day. Juanga and Lorena socialize with lots of people and drink, but Julia nurses a single beer and gets lost in thought. A young woman in a catsuit approaches her and asks if she’s Olga’s sister—she introduces herself as Jazmyn, a high school friend of Olga’s. Julia feels a hazy memory of the girl return to her. Jazmyn effusively recalls how close she and Olga were, and then asks Julia how Olga is—she hasn’t seen her, she says, in few years, since she ran into Olga at the mall and listened to Olga go “on and on about this guy she was in love with.”
Julia has been feeling stagnant and hopeless when it comes to learning more about Olga—but this chance meeting with one of Olga’s high school friends, and the revelation that Olga was “in love” with somebody, reignite Julia’s hopes of learning the truth about whatever her sister was hiding. Meanwhile, this revelation also makes clear that Amá’s view of Olga is also incorrect, and that, more broadly no one is a saint, and everyone is complicated.
Julia, stunned, tells Jazmyn that Olga is dead. She is intrigued by the idea that Olga was in love with someone—Julia knows Olga certainly didn’t have passionate feelings for her nerdy high-school boyfriend. Jazmyn, though, is so devastated by the news of Olga’s death that she begins weeping, and doesn’t respond to Julia’s questions. Feeling sick, Julia runs to the bathroom, but doesn’t throw up. She rushes out of the bathroom, determined to ask Jazmyn more questions, but can’t find the girl anywhere. After the party, as Juanga drunkenly drives Lorena and Julia home, Julia thinks about how her “sister’s ghost is hovering” over her no matter where she goes or what she does.
Julia distracts Jazmyn from her memories of Olga by sidelining her with news of Olga’s death. Julia becomes overwhelmed by sadness—and by the fear that no matter where she goes in life, whom she meets, or what she does, she will always be in Olga’s shadow, even more than she was when Olga was still alive. Meanwhile, thinking about Olga’s ghost while she gets driven home by someone who is drunk again foreshadows the danger that Julia is constantly courting with her behavior.