Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

From the author's website:
Get ready for a whole new take on star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, bad boy meets good girl...

At Fairfield High, everyone knows that south-siders and north-siders aren’t exactly compatible elements. So when cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners, the results are bound to be explosive.

Neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all – love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart?

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to read this book? I'm not sure why I kept putting it off, but I had six hours available this weekend driving out to Houston, so I grabbed this book on my way out the door. I opened the book and started reading...and didn't stop to eat, look out the window, or use the restroom. (okay, maybe I stopped at one rest area!)

Brittany Ellis is starting her senior year of high school. She's excited because her boyfriend Colin is back from a long summer away, and she knows this year is going to be perfect - she's captain of the pom squad and he's captain of the football team. But things don't turn out as well as she'd hoped: She's got to keep up her perfect grades to get into a local college so she'll be close to home to care for her older sister who has cerebral palsy. Colin is pressuring her for sex, and her parents are threatening to send her sister away. Then, in Chemistry class, she gets paired with Alex Fuentes, a tough gang member from the other side of the tracks. Life couldn't get any worse, could it?

18 year-old Alex Fuentes is a tough member of the Latino Bloods - he's got the gang tattoos and wears the gang colors to prove it. He didn't want to be in a gang, but after his father was murdered, he had to join to protect his mother and younger brothers. He doesn't want to get in any further than he is though - he's an enforcer but he won't deal drugs. Then he gets paired with Brittany Ellis in chemistry, and it turns his world upside down. He learns she's not as perfect as people think she is, and the more he learns about her the more he wants to continue spending time with her. But he's got obligations that he can't get out of, no matter how much she begs him to change...

Simone Elkeles has written a fabulous story - I was sucked into this world right from the beginning. The differences between what Brittany was and what she showed to the world were contrasted against the differences between what Alex was and what he showed to the world. They both had to see beyond stereotypes and misconceptions by themselves and their friends and families to be together. In the process they made unexpected new friends and learned things about themselves. It was a brilliantly written journey of love and obligation and hopelessness and growth that I couldn't put down. This is going to be one of my favorite reads of 2010 - I cannot gush enough about this book!

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release date: December 23, 2008
ISBN-10: 0802798225
ISBN-13: 978-0802798220

I want to rush out to the bookstore today to get the second book in this series, Rules of Attraction, which features Alex's younger brother, Carlos:

My Rating:


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