TheFountainPenDiva's Reviews > Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
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My niece was reading this book and asked me what I thought of it. I read it last year and was so incensed at how horrible it was, this review (which has undergone several revisions from the original pissed-off rant) has been sitting in My Documents until now when the discussion of Perfect Chemistry came up again. I somehow managed to survive this EPIC RACEFAIL/GENDERFAIL of a book. Seriously, I wondered if author Simone Elkeles ever met a stereotype she didn't like or believe in. To say that she has become an automatic never-buy-or-read-even-if-she-were-the-last-book-on-earth is an understatement.

I never set out to just hate a book sight unseen and even though I had the feeling Perfect Chemistry was going to be a perfect disaster, I gave it a chance because some of my Goodreads friends recommended it since they know I love interracial romance. Yes Virginia, I absolutely, positively HATED this book and it's only the second book I've ever read where I wished I believed in book burning because this one would be roasting hot dogs by now.

Did I mention how stereotype-laden this dreck thinly disguised as a YA romance was? Okay, try Mexican teenage boy who's poor and is in a gang meets pretty, White and rich teenage girl and they fall in love much to the consternation of the people around them. Really? Mexican teenage boy in a gang? Whoa. Just as good as Mexican boy as gardener? Or Mexican teenage boy as car wash attendant? I guess Mexican teenage boy as geeky science student from a stable and loving family wouldn't have worked, right Ms, Elkeles? Don't tell me, readers wouldn't have bought it.

Worse still are her descriptions of "gang life" which read like they came straight from the film 'American Me' or from the docu-series on A&E, 'Gangland'. It's basically over-the-top gratuitous from the point of view of a woman who thinks a little google research and some television shows are all that's needed to portray 'realistic' gang life sans nuance. The first thing I thought while reading about Alex was, why did he have to be in a gang? The story would have been just fine if he was just from the wrong side of the tracks, a poor kid with smarts trying to make good. And what was with the random high school-esque Spanish thrown in when Alex was talking with his family and his friends?

Next on the chopping block, Brittany. There are few female characters I've had the urge to slap silly, and she's right at the top of the list. Puddles have more depth than this girl. Oh yes, she struggles to be perfect, but everything's about her looks. We're constantly told how she's this Barbie Doll brought to life with her perfect hair, skin, body, makeup, boyfriend, etc. Where's the rest of her? I'm sure she's smart but I never got that impression. I got the impression of a spoiled, self-centered little rich girl who tossed this Mexican gangbanger-gone-good named Alex at her upper-crust parents in order to piss them off. I just didn't see any indication that she really cared for Alex, nor he for her (since she was part of a bet over a car). Maybe it was the writing, which was just painfully bad.

Unlike some readers, the sex and drugs aspect was probably the most accurate part of the book. Whether we want to deal with it or not, some teens are engaging in this behavior and we have to start dealing with it in an honest fashion. If there was any romance involved, I had a hard time seeing it because of all the rest of the FAIL.

The sad fact that this book won so many awards is just mindboggling at best but also shows these groups need a serious shot of diversity on their panels. There's no way a book this racially insulting should be winning anything save a Razzie, if they had them for books. The sad thing is, there's a dearth of well-written YA interracial romances out there. We need them featuring well-rounded characters and not stereotypes.
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Reading Progress

03/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Anyta Sunday Interesting review.

I think this book attracts a lot of teen readers because the author is not afraid to delve into the sex aspect of a relationship. I love reading YA books, but it is astounding how many gloss over the sex--and perhaps this element makes it feel more real and more exciting for teens to read? I know when I was a kid I loved Judy Blume's Forever for exactly that reason.

When I read this, I thought of it as a modern Romeo and Juliet. The rich girl, the poor boy, the violence . . . I thought it was the plot line that was echoing this theme. There are heaps of takes on a modernized version of Romeo and Juliet, so taking that in mind, I thought it was okay.

I think you are right with your comments on the stereotypes. And it's sad, because how can we break these perceptions if they are being reinforced in the books we read and the TV we watch? I think, especially for YA, there needs to be more effort put in to breaking them.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

When I started reading from Alex's point of view, I was annoyed and thought: let them speak only Spanish or let them speak only English. It really didn't add to the story and I felt like the author was sort of shouting: "Look! I know 3 words in Spanish!" *rolls eyes*


TheFountainPenDiva It was painful, like the author just started the Rosetta Stone program and thought "I'm fluent!"


message 4: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha Just started this book but I couldn't agree more. It's a frustrating read so far for all of the reasons that you have mentioned. The stereotypes are SO rediculous. Possibly more offensive since I am a white female dating a hispanic male. I don't even know if I want to finish this book!


TheFountainPenDiva I somehow managed to finish it but my blood pressure was nearly through the roof.


message 6: by Xian Xian (new)

Xian Xian I just happened to stumble upon your review and this is one of the reasons why I cringe when it comes to interracial romance novels written by White people. Have you heard of Eleanor & Park? As soon as I heard about all of the Asian racist stereotypes and exotification, the love interest is half White and Korean. I immediately decided that the book didn't exist. Unfortunately, this writer has won so many awards, a possible movie for her book, and hype, it's insane. The fact that the author named him Park, is quite laughable. Park isn't a first name, you would know that she failed because she couldn't research Asian names well enough to know that.


message 7: by J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

J. Taylor She did research the gangs but it was so cliche i do agree with you on that, im just saying dont assume the author hasnt researched anything when you didnt look it up. She talked to gang members and a police officer.


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