Series: Perfect Chemistry, Book 1
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published: December 23rd 2008, Walker Books for Young Readers
Age group: Young Adult
Rating: ★ ★ ★
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.
Judging by the synopsis, ‘Perfect Chemistry’ seems very familiar. I can’t even remember how many books and movies with the similar plot I have read/watched in my life. Probably hundreds. So, the reason I started this book, even though I knew it wouldn’t have anything new, was unexplainable. Maybe it was Valentine’s Day;s influence, or simply because I’ve had this book on my e-reader for way too long, so it was probably time to get it off my TBR list.
The first thing that came to my mind, when I started reading, was that this book was yet another modern rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Alex and Brittany are very different. Not only they belong to different social circles, they also maintain absolutely opposite public images. Brittany is this highly popular, beautiful girl, who seems perfect in every way and can do no wrong. And Alex is a bad boy all around, he is part of some criminal organization, and he seems very dangerous and angry.
So of course, opposites attract. But that would be too simple for this story to go this route. So, to spice it up, the author adds some new twists to it. First of all, it is told that not everything is so perfect in Brittany’s personal life, and Alex is not the jerk he pretends to be. The two don’t actually have any interactions at school they both attend, but it’s hinted that they do notice each other. And this attraction would have probably never got any continuation, if Alex didn’t make a bet with his friend, that he could easily bed Brittany.
I liked the first part of the story, where I first got to know what secrets both Brittany and Alex hide. And then, when the bet was made, the scenes of them spending time together and getting to know each other were very sweet. I wasn’t even particularly bothered by this absolutely old-news bet idea.
But the second part of the story was not that great. I just thought, that everything suddenly started happening way too quickly. In the beginning there’s a sweet and natural progression of Alex and Brittany’s relationship. I liked how they slowly got to know each other, shared their secrets, while their attraction grew deeper. But then everything just sped up, and the proper development of romance was really ruined for me. It’s like one day Brittany is really unsure of whatever feelings she has for Alex, and then next day she says she loves him and has sex with him.
And I just couldn’t get over this whole story of Alex’s misfortunes with his gang. I just found it very contradicting to the whole vibe of the story. While the story mostly focused on romance, which no matter of all the character’s troubles was written very lightly, the scenes of Alex getting out of the gang, getting beaten and having his friend killed, seemed very intense and way out of place. Especially this was notable when I got to the end, which was once again very very sweet and romantic. There was just too much violence and cursing for the story, which in the beginning promised just another teenage love story, yet quite likable.
But still I did sympathized with Alex, who I think had come through too many sufferings to last a lifetime. And I was glad he and Brittany got together in the end. This story actually gave what it promised – a new twist on the classic, well-known story. But while the author did try to make it different, the attempt didn’t really translate that great to me. So all in all, this book was fine with nothing particularly new or exciting. The writing wasn’t very strong, but it was definitely an easy read, and I’m glad I could finish it real quick, otherwise I would really regret too much time spent on it.