Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, # 1)
By: Simone Elkeles
Published: January 6th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from the library
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Goodreads description--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.
So I was reading Archer's Voice, and while I wasn't hating it...it just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. I decided to put it down in favor of trying to find something I could read very quickly. So I went to the e-library to browse their "available now" collection. I saw Perfect Chemistry and considering how quickly I read Leaving Paradise, I thought it might be the perfect book to hook me quickly and hold my attention. And I was spot on.
Perfect Chemistry is another book I started without reading the description. I only knew that I'd really enjoyed several books by Simone Elkeles in the past. I was surprised and intrigued to find out that the leading male of the story belongs to a gang--Latino Blood. So I grew up in a small town (we had a caution light), and even though we didn't have an over abundance of gang activity like a big city, they were present. Simone Elkeles did a really good job incorporating this aspect of the story. Alex's gang affiliation fit with my limited personal knowledge of gangs. And I was interested to see how this hard-core character would translate into a romantic lead. Simone Elkeles did a great job. We all know that girls love a good bad-boy, and things don't get much "badder" than a guy in a gang. I have to say that I've seen this in TV and movies, but I don't think I've ever read a book where one of the main characters was in a gang.
I was worried that I would struggle with Brittany in the beginning of the book. She wants so much to portray this image of perfection, but I honestly felt like that was more a burden that was being placed on her by her mother than something she truly wanted for herself. That made her easier to relate to. It's one thing to have a character who is trying to live up to impossible standards, but it's another thing to have a character who is so shallow she wants everyone to think she's perfect. The prior made her more likeable, and I could easily respect and relate to her.
Of course, Brittany and Alex have more in common than the two could possibly expect. I loved how their relationship started out of antagonism rather than attraction. Neither one was really out to win the other even with the bet involved it seemed. Of course, Alex did move things along more than Brittany, but I always got the impression that he was having to remind himself of the bet rather than behaving in any specific way because of the bet.
I worried that Perfect Chemistry wouldn't have the hard core realities of being involved in a gang, but I felt like it did a good job. Alex was truly a tough guy without being unlikeable. I never felt like Simone Elkeles copped out of the true dangers of being involved in a lifestyle like this. She showed how often people get dragged into the life without truly wanting that for themselves or their families. And she showed how easily choices go from black and white to gray.
Simone Elkeles did a great job of getting me invested in both of these characters. I wanted to know if they could bridge the gap of their extremely different worlds to come together. I couldn't stop thinking about Alex and Brittany when I had to put the book down. Even though I'm not fluent in Spanish, I found myself throwing in a few Spanish words or phrases into my daily thoughts while I was reading this which I found hilarious any time it happened. I was impressed with the lack of description when it came to any physical scenes, but language was definitely present.
Overall, I was really impressed with Perfect Chemistry. I was hooked and invested in the characters and story. I was impressed with the lack of physical description. I enjoyed the originality of the leading male being involved in a gang. I can't remember ever reading a book where this was the case. And the true test, I couldn't stop thinking about Perfect Chemistry any time I needed to put it down. Perfect Chemistry gets 4.5 Stars. Have you read Perfect Chemistry? What did you think? Let me know!