The bad boy - aren't MOST girls attracted to him at some point in their teen lives? I know I've had run-ins with a few, but nothing like what Brittany Ellis experiences with Alex Fuentes in Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles! I'd seen this book in Barnes & Noble several times and didn't even think about picking it up, due to the cover art. I don't know why, but it reminded me of a bad romance novel cover, even though the girl isn't wearing a bodice and the boy has his shirt on....it still threw me! Even though you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, I find myself doing that time and time again, and I've found that the saying still rings true - especially with Simone Elkeles book.
YA Reads had a raving review for Perfect Chemistry, and they usually don't steer my wrong, so I gave the book a shot. Here is a summary of the novel from the Perfect Chemistry website, which has all kinds of information and cool stuff associated with the hot & steamy book:
At Fairfield High, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren’t exactly compatible elements. So when cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners, the results are bound to be explosive.
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?
The whole good-girl-hooks-up-with-bad-boy is a plot line I didn't even know I was intrigued by until I started reading the novel. Even though I can't put it on my shelves to share with my 8th graders (there's too much cursing and sexual situations for middle schoolers), I enjoyed the novel and the gritty realism of Alex's home life. Teaching in a school for six years that was predominately Hispanic in race exposed me to so much of what this book shares. Alex's homelife, sadly, isn't a rarity in big cities. So many young men live this life and do not survive their teen years to understand the gravity of the mistakes they make during that time. I found myself cheering for Alex and for him to overcome his gang ties. Elkeles must have done some extensive research on gang initiation and rituals, because so many of the facts Alex shares with Brittany are what I've heard from my former students. Students who would realize that joining a gang was a bad idea when they were thirteen, find themselves stuck in the gang at seventeen because they see no way out of the situation without suffering the same fate as Alex. Heartbreaking!
Brittany's homelife may also seem perfect to her peers, but Elkeles also does a fabulous job of peeling the onion that is Brittany's life one translucent layer at a time. I felt Brittany's love for her disables sister, Shelley, her frustration with her frou-frou parents, and understood her need to make her image at school squeaky clean and perfect. The characters in Perfect Chemistry are dynamic and well-developed, and even though the dialogue at times was cheesy, and seemed to have forced and awkward sprinklings of Spanish, the book was a fabulous read. I devoured it in one day, and I'm itching to get to the book store to purchase The Rules of Attraction, the sequel to Perfect Chemistry. LOVED THIS BOOK!