Monday, October 10, 2011

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

ISBN: 978-0-8027-9822-0

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers

Source: my sister's collection of books

Summary: 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?

Simone Elkeles is a celebrated writer amongst a lot of teenage girls, so I decided to give Perfect Chemistry a go. I needed something on the lighter side to read (and regardless of the gang activity in this book, it's essentially a light West Side Story flavored love story filled with teen angst and a sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases) and I chose this one due to the fact that it was readily accessible.
Told from the alternating points of view of  main characters Brittany Ellis and Alex Fuentes, Perfect Chemistry is the story of how two people who are complete opposites on the outside find that they have "perfect chemistry" on the inside. Hahaha. I'm sorry, I'm done vomiting on myself now for that horrific title pun, we can move on to the review now. Brittany is known for being blonde and perfect to the outside world, but deals with a lot of family problems, namely her need to be perfect in order to ease the tensions between her anxiety-ridden mother and sister with special needs. She is assigned to be the chemistry partner of Alejandro "Alex" Fuentes, the "gangbanger" (why always the term "gangbanger"? Why not "gang member"?) who is an old softie--he's all intimidating on the outside, but has a huge soft spot for his family members and later Brittany. It is revealed that he is only in a gang to protect his family, not through his own choosing.
I support the strong-hatred-inspires-true-attraction storyline. Perfect Chemistry did a pretty good job with this storyline; it kept me reading quickly. The supporting characters were great additions to the story, not merely plot devices to push the story along. Isa and Paco were great friends to both Alex and Brittany. I enjoyed reading about Alex's family life and the way that the Fuentes family cared for one another. Brittany's family issues between her mother and her handicapped sister seemed very believable, giving credit to Brittany's desire to appear perfect in every way. I liked that Alex recognized the importance of Brittany's relationship with her sister and made himself a part of her sister's life through checkers games.
Every once and awhile, the story became a little too mushy for my tastes (i.e., if Alex compared Brittany to a glowing sunflower one more time, I don't know if I could have kept reading. I'm kidding, mostly.) Also, the epilogue seemed entirely unnecessary. I would have been just fine leaving the story at the place where Alex and Brittany reunited rather than getting a sneak peek into the future of their child, where history is evidently going to repeat itself. Other than that, Perfect Chemistry was a decent teen romance and a definite quick read.

Rating: 3 - fair.

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