Maru's Reviews > Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
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Feb 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: characters-i-love, ya-contemporary
Recommended for: people craving a romantic novel

I really enjoyed this book and totally fell for Brittany and Alex's story. The fact is, Perfect Chemistry is a pretty formulaic romance book, girl and guy who hate each are assigned to be partners in school, they grow closer, realize how similar they actually are and fall in love. There is no ground breaking material here. However it is nicely written, I appreciate what Elkeles does in allowing for Alex and Brittany to both have a voice, and all in all it's a cute, heartwarming and ultimately optimistic story in a not-so-optimistic setting.

Alex and Brittany attend a school where kids are divided into those from the north side and those from the south side. The north-side kids are the ones typically labeled as "white, rich and spoiled" who will go on to have a perfectly bright future, while the south-side kids are the "Mexican gang members" who are lucky to just be graduating. The book is ultimately about what it takes for two people to go past the labels, to understand how similar the kids from the south and from the north actually are, to recognize that labels are never accurate, to embrace differences and to go past what is expected of them in society.

Brittany helps Alex strive for a better future, she helps him get the strength necessary to stand up for himself, to believe that he can lead the life he wants. Alex helps Brittany let go of the pressures she has from her parents and her friends to be perfect, he helps her be more free, and comfortable being who she is. Both are extremely likeable characters, both live in difficult situations and do their best to get through them. They are strong, opinionated and can think for themselves. This is very important. Liking the main characters can make or break the book, it doesn't matter that there isn't an incredibly original plot, all I care about is that the main characters be likeable, and in Perfect Chemistry they certainly are. On top of that, the main character's friends are also very well written, both Brittney and Alex have open-minded friends who want the best for them, who root for their happiness, who look out for them. This makes the book even better. Ultimately the heart of the book - as it should be in any good read - is in the characters, and they make this an enjoyable read.

A few (maybe minor) things that bugged me:
1. Being bilingual myself in English and Spanish (though I'm not from Mexico and I don't live in the States) and a pro at mixing both languages with my other bilingual friends, I found it a bit annoying how much Spanglish there was between Brittany and Alex. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am the first one to speak half and half, it's sometimes easier and just comes out, but that's fun when the other person understands you. Here it just felt forced because why would Alex say stuff in Spanish if Brittany doesn't speak it? We don't need a constant reminder that Alex is Mexican - if that is what the author is trying to do. I don't really know how to explain it, maybe it's a pet-peeve of mine, I don't know and now I'm not making myself clear. But I felt that sometimes the Spanish was forced in the middle of sentences when it didn't go, and I just found it was unnecessary. Again, a pet-peeve.

2. At points I found the emphasis on the physical attraction to be too much. I know they were both attractive people but I was more interested in how they began to understand and relate to each other and each other's lives better. It didn't particularly annoy me that much, but I did notice it during the dialogues. Sometimes I found myself hoping the dialogues would be richer, like I wanted Alex to explain to Brittany better why he was in a gang, and why he couldn't leave it instead of focusing on her "long legs".

Those two things are probably the only problems I had with the novel, and they weren't really that bad, just things I noticed. Other than that I loved Alex and Brittany's relationship, it made me laugh, and cry and root for them all the way through. They had chemistry radiating from the pages.
It's important for the reader to know that this is a romantic novel. It's about a two people falling in love in an unfortunate setting, it deals with important issues such as gang violence, discrimination and labels, but in the heart of it it's just a romance. A sweet and compelling one, yes, and one definitely worth reading when craving that type of novel.
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