Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review of Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Pages: 357
Genre:  YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: January 1, 2008
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

When the synopsis says it's a urban twist on the star-crossed lover story, it's not kidding. Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles, is the cousin of Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, except it's the fun, adventurous cousin that loves to break all the rules.  Yes, it's true that Perfect Chemistry is a modern take on the timeless star-crossed lover tale; however, it offers so much more than that.  

Alex Fuentes, the quintessential bad boy, is a senior who grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks."  He's a gang member and is involved with some seedy people.  Deep down, he's a good guy trying to protect and care for his family since he's the "man of the house."  Alex has a lot of potential, but is throwing it all away and succumbing to the fact that he will never go to college, because of his station in life.  

On the other hand, Brittany Ellis is the seemingly perfect blonde captain of the cheerleading squad.  Everyone thinks she has it all.  She lives in a mansion, drives a BMW, and wears designer clothing.  However, this is the image she projects to the world, but her home life is a disaster.  Her mom is a complete nut job and hovers over Brittany..a.k.a. "helicopter parent."   She lashes out at Brittany over every little thing and this causes Brittany some major anxiety.  Her dad is a workaholic who travels a lot and is never home.  He's an absent parent who makes a lot of money, but simply isn't doesn't parent.  Brittany's sister, Shelley, suffers from a serious disability and the family pretty much keeps her sister's issues a secret...including Brittany.  All of this pseudo-perfection and facades eventually takes its toll on Brittany.  

The characters truly spoke to me.  I know that there are a lot of high school students that share many of Alex's responsibilities to his family.  The people connecting with Alex may not be in a gang, but I'm sure deal with some of his home life issues on a daily basis.  In addition, Brittany reminded me of a lot of people I went to school with as well as some students I teach.  It's exhausting to pretend to be a perfect all day at school and convey a false image.  I know so many people, like Brittany, that are constantly seeking approval from others and trying to constantly impress others.  You can only do that for so long without having some sort of "come to Jesus moment" or a breakdown/identify crisis.  Unfortunately, many students I have taught also had extremely demanding and unsupportive parents and/or an absentee parent due to work demands, just like Brittany's life.  The connections I could make with these two characters were incredible.  In my opinion, Elkeles paints an extremely realistic picture.

Because I could make a multitude of connections so perfectly to these characters, I found myself getting emotionally attached and involved.  This then caused me to think about the characters while I wasn't reading and rush home from work to finish the book. To me, these are all signs of a brilliant novel.  To add to that, Alex and Brittany's relationship was steamy and Elkeles portrayal of sexual tension between two people that don't necessarily "like" each other was point perfect.  I mean I could feel the tension through the book-- it was that well written.  I found myself, right off the bat, rooting for Alex even though he is involved with a gang, because there is so much more to him.  After Brittany peels back Alex's many layers, she also recognizes his potential and the connection that they make is the stuff of dreams.   

I love that this novel focuses on stereotypes. We all have them and unfortunately prejudge people either subconsciously or consciously.   This book explores the "what if" factor.  What if you let go of your pre-conceived notions and keep an open mind?  What if people try to get past their prejudices and give others a chance? This book illustrates what you might find by letting go of your stereotypes; I loved this message!

Finally, the ending is swoon-worthy; I am still sighing/daydreaming as I think about it.  If you are to ponder over the greatest pairings in literature, the following names might come to mind: Romeo and Juliet, Paris and Helen of Troy, Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Katniss and Gale (I couldn't resist; I'm sorry!), and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  Well, I suggest we add Brittany and Alex  to this monumental list as a modern great pairing.  Essentially, what I am trying to say is that their love is epic.  I can't wait to read the second and third book in this trilogy.  Lastly, I must say thank you to Becky at The Bookette for recommending this book to me.  Her review is what inspired me to read this book-- thank you!!

Buy The Book Here:
*Does this book sound like something you'd like? Read an excerpt of Perfect Chemistry here.

*This book is a part of a trilogy and the second book in the series came out this past week.  You can buy Rules of Attraction here:

*Check out the book trailer for Rules of Attraction:

*Does this sound like something that interests you? If so, read three excerpts from Rules of Attraction here.


  1. Oh, I've already heard about about it, but you made it sound even better! It's an amazing review and I am really looking forward to get it -- as soon as possible! Thanks!

  2. emotional attachment to characters, swoon worthy ending - this book sounds wonderful! :-) great review!

  3. Fantastic review! I loved Perfect Chemistry too. It is one of my favorite books I've read this year. I can't wait to read Rules of Attraction.

  4. Raila, Brizmus, and Christina T- Thanks for the comments. I definitely can't wait for Rules either! I need to go out and buy it!

  5. I'm so glad you read and reviewed this book. I'm so glad you love it as much as I do. You're are so right. There love is epic. *sighs* Alex, oh where for art thou Alex?!

    Awesome and very thorough review!


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