The daughter of divorced parents, Carmen has always depended on her mother, Christina, and her three best friends to be her family. Although she loves her father, Albert, her relationship with him is fragile, and Carmen is afraid to be honest with him about how she feels, fearing that any conflict will drive him away. She’s proud of her Puerto Rican side, as well as her curvy body, but spending the summer with Albert’s new family makes her feel like an outsider. Lydia, Krista, and Paul are all very white and blond, and Carmen stands out with her dark skin and full figure. Terrified of telling Albert how hurt she is that he has replaced her and Christina with a new family, she instead acts rude and difficult, almost daring the new family to dislike her. When she throws a rock through the kitchen window while the family is eating dinner, she is making a desperate attempt to communicate all the things she stubbornly denies feeling: hurt, betrayal, anger, and shame. These childish acts of defiance make Carmen feel bad about herself, and she often wishes she could act less like a brat and more like a mature adult.
Loving and devoted to her friends, Carmen is the most introspective of the four girls, always struggling to figure out where she fits, what she feels, and how to strengthen the girls’ friendship so that it lasts forever. She is the voice that begins and ends the novel, explaining the girls’ history of being friends and telling readers about how the Pants came into their lives. Although all the girls value their friendship, Carmen is the girl who is most aware of how fragile friendship can be, especially during the growing-up years when boys, college, and separation are on the horizon. Because she understands the preciousness of their friendship, she leads readers into the story and helps us understand that preciousness too.