Ruth's Reviews > Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
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's review
Jul 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: romance, teen
Read in January, 2009

Brittany Ellis seems to be the quintessential popular girl; she's a blonde cheerleader, has rich parents, and is the girlfriend of the football team's quarterback. Alex Fuentes appears to be the ultimate bad boy; eldest son of a widowed Mexican immigrant, he is a gang member whose teachers openly speculate if he will finish this, his senior year of high school. The two are from different worlds, and would never have even acknowledged each other's existance...if they hadn't just been made lab partners in Chemistry.

But they are each more than appears on the surface. Brittany only worries so much with her appearance to pacify her depression-prone mother and absentee father. The most important person in her life is her older sister, who has cerebral palsy, and she's trying to keep her parents from placing her sister in a nursing home. Alex only joined the gang at the urging of his mother, and to find more information on the gang-related shooting of his father, over ten years earlier. He's trying his best to keep his two younger brothers out of the gang, and is worried that he's not having much success.

As Brittany and Alex start to getting to know each other better, their feelings for each other move from open antagonism, to grudging respect, to... more. But even as they are drawn to each other, will their different worlds drive them apart?

I really liked how REAL Brittany and Alex felt. Neither of them was perfect; they both made mistakes, with each other and with their friends and families. They each had to be the strong ones in their respective families, and were each surprised to discover that they weren't the only ones trying to maintain an image that wasn't quite accurate. I like how the author didn't seem to soft-pedal Alex's gang membership; there were some solid reasons and benefits for Alex being in a gang, but there were also some pretty steep prices to pay.
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