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July 19, 2011

Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

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.
I've never been fond of novels containing intense romance, and by the looks of Perfect Chemistry's cover, it certainly appears to be centered around love. However, I honestly adored this book. In fact, I finished it in one four-hour sitting. There is so much more to the story than just the developing relationship between the two main characters, head cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang-affiliated Alejandro Fuentes.

Brittany has the perfect life...or rather, the facade of a perfect life. She's wealthy, has a spotless reputation, and is dating the most sought-after boy in school. Inside her home, however, things aren't quite so amazing. Her parents expect Brittany to act flawlessly because her older sister Shelley is physically and mentally disabled. When Brittany is forced to partner up with Alejandro aka Alex in chemistry class, her image of a perfect senior year is thrown out the window.

Alex seems to be the ultimate bad boy. He's grown up on the south side of town, which is drastically different from the north side where Brittany lives. Alex's father was killed because of gang violence, and Alex himself is now caught up in gang activity. Despite his outward appearance, Alex doesn't wish to be part of the gang. He simply does it because he believes he is protecting his family. When Alex meets Brittany, you'd think that they have just about nothing in common. I thought the same, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

Interracial relationships are not something I've seen much of in YA novels, so I really appreciated how Simone Elkeles put this story together. The bits of Spanish language made it all the more realistic, providing some cultural insight without being too difficult to understand. It is simply impossible not to fall in love with Alex, considering his cocky, charming exterior alongside a caring, compassionate heart. (Be jealous of my alliteration skills! :P) I was a little disappointed to find out that the next two books in this series follow Alex's two younger brothers, but if they turn out to be anything like Alex, I will fall in love all over again.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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