24 April 2012

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.
So many pros to cover in this awesome story.  Simone Elkeles' name has been a blimp on my radar for a long time.  I've heard quite a few good things about her, but I thought a story about overcoming the stereotypes between a white girl and a Latino would be so cliche.  (And a bits of the story were cliche, but heck, a lot of good stories have cliches in them.)  I was pleasantly surprised by Simone Elkeles' unique writing style and lovable, big-screen worthy characters.  I burned through the book like that.

Simone Elkeles does not mess around.  Her bold, unabashed writing style was a breath of fresh air among the abstract, sissy musings of the kind of contemporary books that put me off the genre.  She was straightforward, simple and profound and did not waste time with the story.

I'd thought that there wasn't much story to be told about such a straightforward story idea, but boy I was wrong.  The characters, Alex and Brittany, were well-rounded and each had their own twisted and sometimes horrific personal lives and haunting pasts.  Brittany had her blond moments and Alex had his man-I-wish-you-were-real-so-I-could-smack-you moments.  That's what made them so vivid.  I cheered for the two of them till the last page.  (I also cheered Mrs. Peterson.  Huzzah for awesome teachers!)  I feel like Ours by Taylor Swift would be a good theme song to this book.

The plot was complex and intense.  The ending lost me a bit, just because it started to feel more like a daytime soap opera but Simone Elkeles' smartass writing style more than made up for the cringe-worthy cliche ending scene.  The cliches weren't a deal breaker, except when Brittany went into a typical blond crisis mode.

Major Pro: Spanish.  Simone Elkeles is fearless!  She has Alex mixing Spanish and English like she has no idea how hot it would be if it were real life.  Goodness.

The characters also have a wicked sense of humor.  Always a major plus.

At the end, I was left with the good-and-bad feeling in my gut of having finished a really good book.  I'm so glad there are two other books after this!  Does this girl good to get some more Simone Elkeles books. :)

"Miss Ellis?" Mrs. Peterson says.  "It's your turn.  Introduce Alex to the class."

"This is Alejandro Fuentes.  When he wasn't hanging out on street corners and harassing innocent people this summer, he toured the inside of jails around the city, if you know what I mean.  His secret desire is to go to college and become a chemistry teacher, like you, Mrs. Peterson."

Brittany flashes me a triumphant smile, thinking she's won this round.  Guess again, gringa.

"This is Brittany Ellis," I say, all eyes now focused on me.  "This summer she went to the mall, bought new clothes so she could expand her wardrobe, and spent her daddy's money on plastic surgery to enhance her, ahem, assets.  Her secret desire is to date a Mexicano before she graduates."

Game on...
Book Info:
  • pages - paperback, 360
  • published - December 2008
  • publisher - Walker Books for Young Readers
  • genre - contemporary fiction
  • received via - Barnes & Noble
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Perfect Chemistry
    • Perfect Chemistry
    • Rules of Attraction | Review
    • Chain Reaction | Review