Brittany Ellis appears to have it all. She’s rich, pretty, dates the high school football captain and lives on the right side of town. And that’s the image she’s desperate to keep. Because at home things are less than perfect, as her parents decide to send away her disabled sister, her Mother’s neurosis spirals out of control and her Father spends more and more time away. Not so perfect after all.
Alex Fuentes could be seen as the complete opposite. Hard as nails gang member of the notorious Latino Blood from the opposite side of town it looks as if his path is already set-crime, drugs, guns and quite probably an early grave. But inside Alex is harbouring a desire to leave the gang and go to college. Despite the façade he hates being part of the Latino Blood, but with his Father shot dead when he was a child and being the eldest of three bothers, he doesn’t have much choice if he wants to protect his family.
Then Brittany and Alex’s worlds collide when they are partnered in a Chemistry project at school and the results are explosive. But can love cross the Cultural divide and change their destiny or, is the future already mapped out for them the only one?
Seriously, when I read raving reviews about this book I was really eager to read it for myself, but there is no way I was expecting to fall so absolutely in love with it. From the first page I completely devoured the entire story and I’m still thinking about it hours after finishing. Told in alternating chapters by Brittany and Alex, this is a classic good girl/bad boy love story. But what gives this book an edge and makes it such compulsive and memorable reading are the two amazing and complex main characters.
While they believe themselves very different, Alex and Brittany are actually incredibly similar. They are both projecting the image that their families, friends and society expect from them. I adored the way Simone Elkeles used both Brittany and Alex’s voice to tell the story, it meant I was able to connect with both of them and was anxiously urging them on throughout. Brittany got my sympathy straight away. As a reader you’re immediately aware that she’s deeper than she appears. Her desperation to create the ‘perfect’ image, forced upon her by her Mother, makes her lonely and alienated. Her devotion to her disabled sister was incredibly touching, and while the persona she put on for others isn’t very likeable, I loved the Brittany I got an insight into as a reader.
Alex is just, well…stunning. Tough, cocky, sexy…he is hot! He’s speech is captivating and authentic with Spanish phrases littering his dialogue, so even while I don’t speak Spanish, it brought his character even more alive. But he is also so much more than the sexy, brooding, bad boy. Simone Elkeles doesn’t glamorise gangs at all, she shows the harsh reality and it’s not pretty. My heart went to Alex immediately as like Brittany, he’s putting on an act of survival and can’t see a way out. Having seen his Father shot, he is desperate to protect his younger brothers and knows that by sacrificing his own future by joining the gang, he can save them from the same fate. I defy anyone not to fall in love with him; I know I did.
The Chemistry between the two is just dazzling. They spark off each other, at first with hatred and then with sexual tension. Its gripping, heart pounding, stomach clenching stuff. Elkeles writes so well it’s impossible not to get swept up in. A comment made by another character in the book likening Alex to Danny Zuko in Grease had me screaming Yeeess!!! Think of all that chemistry between Sandy and Danny, how you knew they should be together even when they didn’t. But Perfect Chemistry isn’t a fun romance, it has a dark, menacing side, which tackles racism, gang crime and image perception. Sitting in my comfy semi rural English home, criminal gangs such as the Latino Blood are a world away from my own, but Simone Elkeles gave me an insight. Alex sees he has no choice but to join, there is no way out and to do so would put himself and his family at danger. It made me so sad and angry.
So would I recommend Perfect Chemistry? Oh Yeah! I absolutely adored this book from beginning to end, with it keeping me up half the night just to finish it and taking me on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. I really couldn’t tear my eyes away. Look past the front cover, which in my opinion does nothing for the amazing story inside and I don’t think many will be disappointed with what they find. The only caution I would give would be that the book contains some swearing, sex and violence and I would advise against giving it to under Thirteen year olds, depending on your stance on such things. This is certainly heading straight for my favourites shelves, and I can’t wait for the second book in the trilogy, Rules Of Attraction, to be released.
And if my word isn’t enough to convince you, go and check out Becky @ The Bookette’s character connection post where she discusses the awesomeness that is Alex Feuntes!