Saturday, November 20, 2010

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
published December 2008 by Walker & Co
368 pages (paperback), YA

We all know the story - good girl falls for bad boy. She's popular, rich and college-bound, the envy of all her friends. He's in a gang, living on the poor side of the tracks, and hoping to at least graduate high school. Inevitably, the two must spend their school days together as chemistry lab partners. On their first day, they're forced to introduce each other 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."
I don't read a whole lot of realistic fiction or romance for that matter, but I quite enjoyed this one. Perhaps it's because I saw Simone Elkeles speak at ISLMA last month, and she was just so bubbly and hilarious. Perhaps because the trailer for this book is genius and fall-off-your-chair funny. Or maybe because I read it over a long weekend traveling to visit a friend. It made for great airport and plane reading.

One thing Simone mentioned when she talked about her writing career is that she was never great at school and she never saw herself as a writer or even reader. But a trip to the public library and a handful of romances later changed her mind. She loves the happy ending that all romances promise and deliver, and that's what she tried to do with this book. Personally, I could have done without the happy ending, especially in a YA romance, but I liked the rest of the story enough to be okay with it. Brittany and Alex are three-dimensional characters, with complicated family stories and even more complicated friendships, with thoughts and feelings so at odds with each other that they're constantly fighting and trying to figure out what's right. Simone's passion and general emo qualities shine in this book. Honestly, that's what I love most about teens and books for teens - the raw emotion and incessant need to question everything.

So, four purple crayons for a fantastic if predictable story. I smiled and laughed and wanted to hug someone when I was finished reading it. :)



Peaceful Reader said...

I didn't watch the video for fear it would wake the sleeping child next to me but this book looks good and the guy on the cover is hot! I'll have to find this one.

NatalieSap said...

You have to watch the video! When I'm in a sour mood, I watch it and instantly feel better. :) The third book in the trilogy, Chain Reaction, is coming out in May, so I think I'll wait awhile until I read the second, Rules of Attraction.

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