Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Rarely do I feel compelled to review a book. To the public, I mean. Believe me, the CP and I spend our fair share of time praising this book, griping over that one, swearing we never should've picked up this piece of *bleep*, wishing we would've read this work of art sooner. For both of us, Perfect Chemistry by best-selling YA novelist Simone Elkeles embodied that last sentiment to perfection this week.

Perfect Chemistry, Simone Elkeles, 2009, Walker & Co., 357 pages.

At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren't exactly compatible elements. So when head cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, the results are bound to be explosive. But 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?

Written in first person, present tense, flip-flopping (with clear breaks, I am compelled to indicate) between the two main characters (hero & heroine), Perfect Chemistry breaks the mold of typical teen angst novel,  reaches beyond that overdone Romeo & Juliet-meets-West Side Story thingamajig, and lands somewhere between... oh, take your pick among the best romances, then mix thoroughly with the best YA, and, just for fun, throw in a dash of the that plot, mingled with those characters, which chased you around for weeks, maybe months.

Have I managed to confuse you? Sorry about that. Here's what I loved about this book: The hero is deep in more ways than just a poetry-writing, love-confessing (sorry Edward, but the constant sappiness gets on my nerves), head-over-heels-for-the-girl-to-the-point-I'd-rather-die-than-live-without-you nincompoop. He's real. Into some major stuff, too--all gang-related, which is a new thing for me as a reader. Ms. Elkeles definitely did her research with this one. Latino gang-banger tough guy Alejandro "Alex" Fuentes has no qualms with standing up for himself and his friends, even to the richer-than-rich popular kids at school. What's more, you believe in him--his conviction of self, the lengths to which he will go to protect and provide for his mama and two younger brothers.

Oh, and I hate to be a cougar, but this boy is totally, off-the-charts, slap-yo-mamma hot.

Ahem. Moving on...

Equally, our rich heroine beauty Brittany Ellis is more than meets the eye. Sure, she's gorgeous, perfect, a snow, drives a BMW, blah-di-blah-di-blah. But she's got her own demons. And, no, it's not that, "Oh, yeah? Demons? Really? Like, her parents are divorced? Or she can't figure out what to wear to the prom?"  I'm talking real stuff. Yes, the type she deals with at home, but, as I pointed out earlier, this is not your typical teenager, cry-me-a-river-already YA.

Cons to this book? I was all too sad to see it end. In fact, I can totally see myself reading it over in the very near future, just to soak up the characters and plot. This is the type of story that makes a writer want to write, and if you're a writer, you know exactly what I mean.

Perfect Chemistry is merely the first book in the Perfect Chemistry Series, the other stories of which feature Alex's brothers. You can read more about the series here: and more about the author here:

The Fuentes Boys holding their respective books.
From L to R: Alex, Carlos, & Luis

Have any of you read an exceptionally good story lately? One you were hard-pressed to put down?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,



Anonymous said...

Just finished Open Minds and did a review. Excellentt book! Its self published and should be picked up by a mainstream publisher IMHO.

Bonnie Rae said...

I've heard about these books before, but never really looked into them. Looks like I will be using my new 20% off coupon at B&N this weekend.

Lynda R Young said...

I haven't read an exceptional can't-put-down book lately so this one sounds interesting. Thanks for the great review.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great review! I was thinking West Side Story before you refuted that. It sounds really good, and I'm all for characters who aren't one-dimensional.

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