Kristin's Reviews > Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
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Jun 27, 2012

it was amazing
Read from June 24 to 25, 2012

I don’t really read contemporary YA novels, they just tend to skew too young for my tastes, unlike paranormal YA books. However, if the ones out there were like Perfect Chemistry, I’d probably read more of them. I’ve seen this book around since its release, but since they’re not my thing, I never paid any attention to it. Then I ordered it for the library I work at and, after it came in, decided to just flip through it to see what it was about. The parts I read were cute and funny, so I decided to give it a try. And I’m so glad I did.

On her first day of school, Brittany Ellis nearly runs over Alex Fuentes’ motorcycle, which puts her on the gang member’s radar, and not in a good way, then later gets paired with him in chem class for the rest of the year. Of course he’s crude and abrasive, thinking Brit’s nothing more than a rich, snobby, white girl, and she gives it right back to him, insulting his intelligence and life. Then, as word of their pairing spreads, Alex’s friends bet him that he can’t sleep with her before Thanksgiving. And since he’s wagered his bike on the bet, he’s determined to win it. Of course, neither person is exactly what other people perceive them to be. Brittany’s family life is a mess, her father’s always working and her mother’s strung tighter than a tightrope, and she feels the need to be the perfect daughter since her older sister, Shelley, suffers from cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound. As for Alex, he witnessed his father’s murder when he was six and never wanted to be in a gang, but joined so that he could offer his family and friends protection and is now dealing with his younger brother, Carlos, being courted by the Latino Blood while Alex is being sucked further into the gang’s illegal activities.

The story was told in Alex and Brittany’s alternating POVs, which I loved, because I absolutely adored this couple. The obstacles between them felt real, as did their attraction to each other. And there wasn’t any insta-love or a love triangle, which was refreshing. Though this may sound like a serious book, and parts of it absolutely are, there's quite a bit of humor and sarcasm in it, which definitely kept the book from being weighed down by the heavier moments.

Despite Brittany believing she needed to be “the perfect one” since her sister couldn’t, she didn’t resent Shelley and did everything in her ability to make sure her parents never sent her to a home; Brittany also spent a lot of time with her, playing games, feeding her and even taking care of her bathroom issues. And when Alex met her, he was the exact opposite of Colin, treating her like nothing was out of the ordinary.

The mystery surrounding the murder of Alex’s father wasn’t really a mystery, but that didn’t detract from the story. Though there are social commentary issues strewn throughout about stereotype, disabilities, etc. this definitely falls under the romance category. And while I’d normally run screaming from these types of books, I ate it up like a starving person who’s been shoved in front of a (vegan) buffet.

The secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out as the two MCs and a couple of the characters were clichéd baddies you usually see in any novel, YA or adult, the douchey guy (Brittany’s boyfriend, Colin) and slutty friend, but Alex’s friends, Paco and Isa, and Brittany’s best friend, Sierra and even her boyfriend, Doug, were nice additions to the story; they were loyal, funny and kind. However, I wanted to slap both of Alex’s and Brittany’s parents, as they seemed more concerned with themselves than with their kids, particularly Alex’s mom; to put her son in the situation she did was disgusting and I wouldn’t have been able to forgive her if I’d have been him.

One thing that annoyed me was the Spanish words thrown in (this happens all the time in Jane Austen's books. I don't know French either!!!!). Yes, you can pretty much figure out what's being said through context, but for those of us who have never studied the language being used, a glossary in the back would've been useful.

I don’t see how Rules of Attraction could possibly be better or even as good as this book, but I’m still looking forward to reading it to find out what happens to Alex’s younger brother, Carlos and to hopefully get glimpses of Alex and Brit.
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