Friday, April 29, 2011

Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Summary:  A modern tale of star-crossed lovers with a fresh urban twist. At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago , everyone knows that south-siders mixing with north-siders can be explosive. So when Brittany Ellis and Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, this human experiment leads to unexpected revelations – that Brittany ’s flawless reputation is a cover for her troubled home life, that Alex’s bad-boy persona hides his desire to break free from gang ties, and that when they’re together, life somehow makes more sense. Breaking through the stereotypes and expectations that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart, Perfect Chemistry takes readers to both sides of the tracks in a passionate love story about looking beneath the surface. (Summary and image from http://www.simoneelkeles.net/)

My Review:  Pride and Prejudice meets She's All That and West Side Story in this gritty, urban romance by Simone Elkeles.  Alex and Brittany have nothing in common.  He's a hardened member of the Latino Blood street gang and she's Ms. Perfect, with her perfect grades, perfect hair, and perfect life.   When the two are thrown together in chemistry class, they couldn't be more unhappy about it and emotions run high.  But things change, as they often do in books like this, and it isn't long before the tension between them is of an entirely different nature.   Neither Alex or Brittany are what they seem and as they get to know each other, the truth comes out in unexpected ways. 

No doubt about it, this book is a YA romance novel and not much else.  It had a great deal of profanity, sexual comments, sexual situations, and substance abuse -- far more than I feel is necessary or appropriate in a YA novel.  It might have been a little less offensive if I didn't speak Spanish, because then I would have missed certain words and innuendo, but there were plenty of English ones to go around.  That having been said, I read this 357 page novel from cover to cover in four hours.  And not just any four hours.  I looked at the clock at 2am when I was crazy enough to think "I'll just read a chapter" and I didn't look at it again until I finished at 6am.  Yes, I realize this makes me crazy.  Obviously, I was a wee bit invested in their relationship, okay?

I was disappointed by this book's romanticized view of gang membership, because I felt most of the time their behavior was toned down to be more "attractive bad boy" than "lethal killer" (with exceptions made towards the end).  Simone Elkeles has written several other YA novels in this same genre that usually revolve around teens working through problems of fitting in, or dealing with difficult situations at home.  She has written two more books that follow Alex's brothers, Carlos and Luis: Rules of Attraction (2010) and Chain Reaction (releasing Aug. 16th, 2001). While I wouldn't recommend this book to young adults, I think that an older adult, who is not bothered by sex, profanity, etc. might enjoy this YA romance. 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  If it wasn't for all the profanity, sexual comments, and sexual situations, I would probably have given this book a four star rating.  I definitely did not feel it was suitable for a YA audience (at least not my YA's), however "realistic" it might have been. 

Sum it up:  A very mature YA romance (that kept me up all night, literally)

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