Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published: December 2008 by Walker Books
My Rating: 5 stars
Tags: YA | Romance | Realistic | Gangs
Includes: Violence, Sexuality, Profanity
First Lines: Everyone knows I'm perfect. My life is perfect. My clothes are perfect. Even my family is perfect. And although it's a complete lie, I've worked my butt off to keep up the appearance that I have it all.
Brittany Ellis has a seemingly perfect life from the outside. Others are jealous of her good looks, boyfriend of two years, rich family and mansion of a house. But what they don't know is that she's faking it all. As her home life is crumbling apart, so is her relationship with her boyfriend Colin. And to make matters worse, on the first day of senior year she gets paired up with gang member Alex Fuentes in chemistry class. The two are from different parts of town and are constantly at each others' throats. But when Alex makes a bet with his friends that by November he can get Brittany to sleep with him, things turn around. Suddenly, Alex is always on Brittany's mind and he can't get her out of his own either. As the two begin a secret relationship, they realize that maybe they aren't so different after all.
From page 82
I take one of his hands in mine. I'd never be this bold if we had an audience, and am thankful for the privacy of the nonfiction titles surrounding us. His breathing slows as I sit up on my knees and lean into him. I'm ignoring the fact that his fingers are long and rough and that I've never actually touched him before. I'm nervous. I shouldn't be, though. I'm the one in control this time.
This was a unique blend of Romeo and Juliet meets West Side Story. One thing I loved about this book was that it was told in both Brittany and Alex's point of view, alternating chapters. I was able to see both of the characters' home lives and cultures, and grow equally close to the main characters. They were deeply developed and almost right from the beginning I really connected to them. I could relate to Brittany and her struggle at plastering on a smile, while I could also understand Alex's reasons behind being in a tough gang to protect his family.
I hadn't ever read anything by this author before so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Her writing blew me away though, and left me hungry for more. Simone Elkeles has such a talent of weaving together an interesting plot, steamy romance, unforgettable and compatible characters, and words that flow perfectly together. There was never a dull moment in the story, and even the tiniest of details seemed to play a role in the book. Even me, someone who is completely turned off by profanity, didn't have a problem at all with the many f-bombs included in the dialogue. And that's because the author used them when needed, to make a point, and to bring the story even more to life. Alex is a bad boy - he has tattoos, scars from knife fights, wears a bandanna with his gang colors, and talks tough. But I swear he'll melt your heart. The passion between Alex and Brittany was so raw and real; I believed every second of it. I do think the ending was a little far fetched and dramatic, but that doesn't lower my 5 star rating of this fantastic and emotional novel. I enjoyed every page of it and recommend it to all you mature romantics!
Cover Thoughts: I think it accurately portrays the book, but at the same time, I didn't imagine Alex and Brittany to look like the cover models so it was a little off-putting to me.