358 pages, Paperback
Published on January 1, 2008
Summary: 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.
The characters in this story were most definitely three-dimensional and realistic and my favorite part of this great book. Brittany Ellis was the popular girl every other girl thought they wanted to be. Her home life, however, was a far cry from what everyone thought it was. Brittany was sweet and funny and her chemistry with gangster Alex Fuentes was undeniable. The dialogue between them was witty and nothing short of smoldering. I was practically screaming "Kiss already!" halfway through their second day as chem partners. Alex was sexy and authentic. Elkeles certainly did her homework because everything about him felt Mexican, dangerous, and gang-related. I loved how much he spoke in spanish, since it seems like more and more YA lit is about Americans. I love seeing people with diverse backgrounds in books and these two were completely different. Well, except for the fact that they both had to live up to an image they didn't really want in the first place. None of the secondary characters were too deep, but I loved Paco and (spoiler) I hated the ending because of his death. But it was still realistic and natural, in a way Colin was a jerk and I was glad to see him dumped. Although I kind of liked Sierra for being so there for Brittany, her prejudice against Alex and his friends made me like her slightly less.
The story was rich with references to gangs and I loved that element. Though it was primarily a romance, Elkeles did a great job of portraying gang life and the sinister effects it has on those involved. While it was a little bit predictable, I still enjoyed it a lot. The romance was hot and steamy and left me anxiously awaiting for more scenes with Brittany and Alex, even though they were a bit sparse considering the main focus. What dropped my 5-star rating to a 4 was the ending; it was sweet and cute and left me awwwwing, but it also seemed to cut out a lot. It seems like the author knew where she was going for a long time, then got to the last 30 pages, made a twist that seemed unnatural, had a lot of time pass, have something somewhat surprising happen, then have a lot more time pass and finally give this book a light, happily-ever-after kind of ending. Maybe it was more authentic the way it happened, but I was kind of left with my head still reeling from the twist. It felt like Elkeles wanted to end the story in 30 pages or less and decided to cut out a lot of vital information. I was left kind of confused. And the Alex I learned to love from the beginning of the book was replaced with a docile, infatuated man who knew exactly where to go in life. I would've liked either for him to still have his bad-boy attitude and a little more perspective on life, or have seen his transformation clearer.
Elkeles' writing style was flawless and slightly bland. It was exciting and felt mostly real, but occasionally I would be rolling my eyes at the cheesy, overdone dialogue or the stereotypical responses. I would've liked to see her writing be intense and powerful, while it was like Elkeles was trying to give it an intense and powerful writing style. Alex's thoughts felt real and I laughed out loud a few times, but there was nothing memorable in the actual writing. Brittany's feelings were a bit more moving to me, maybe it was just because of Shelley's condition and her undying love for her sister, but I thought she felt a little more genuine. Sometimes it felt like even Alex's thoughts were trying to be bad-ass.
Overview: Perfect Chemistry was an overall light, happy romance, with the exception of a few gang-related violence scenes and some heavy material regarding Brittany's older sister's mental condition. This novel didn't try to be something it wasn't. The story was filled with great romance and heated banter between Alex and Brittany, kids from the opposite end of town with the same mind set: I will not let anyone see the real me. It was cutesy at times and serious at others. I'll admit to having drooled over Alex a couple of times, but Brittany and him were a perfect match even if no one in the book thought so. The secondary characters weren't particularly memorable, excepting maybe Paco and Sierra. I also liked Isabel, who became a sort of mentor for Brittany. The ending lost the intensity and detail the novel had, leaving me a little disappointed. But in the end the characters got what they deserved (each other, obviously) and the little twist was somewhat enjoyable and definitely surprising. It wasn't super-deep or thought-provoking, but enjoyable and not at all sappy. (Oh by the way, I noticed I've been forgetting to put recommendations on my latest reviews. I'll add it to the ratings section so I don't forget anymore.)
Recommendation: Fans of YA romance, readers looking for a quick, easy, enjoyable read
Cover Rating: 5 stars
Character Rating: 4.5 stars
Plot Rating: 3.5 stars
Overall Rating: 4 stars