The Busy Bibliophile

where I review books, mostly ya and chick-lit

perfect chemistry by simone elkeles August 4, 2011

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.

 

Plot =     
Characters =      
Dialogue =     
Sexy Hotness =      
Overall =      

 

The premise is based on the Romeo and Juliet, 2 different sides of the track idea.  These 2 kids are too different to make it work.  They have different backgrounds, different lifestyles; too different for them even to associate with each other in school, let alone outside of school.

The kids from the north side don’t really mix with kids from the south side. It’s not that we think we’re better than them, we’re just different. We’ve grown up in the same town, but on totally opposite sides. We live in big houses on Lake Michigan and they live next to the train tracks. We look, talk, act, and dress different. I’m not saying it’s good or bad; it’s just the way it is in Fairfield.

Alex is a bad boy gang member and Brittany’s a prissy ice princess.  Can you see where this is going?  Yeah, I could too, after about the first page.  But that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a chance.  Because getting there is very very fun.

They have a near disastrous meeting in the parking lot on the first day of school:

Then I realize whose motorcycle I almost hit. The driver turns around. Angry dark eyes. Red and black bandanna. I sink down into the driver’s seat as far as I can.

“Oh, shit. It’s Alex Fuentes,” I say, wincing.

“Jesus, Brit,” Sierra says, her voice low. “I’d like to live to see graduation. Get outta here before he decides to kill us both.”

Alex is staring at me with his devil eyes while putting the kickstand down on his motorcycle. Is he going to confront me?

I search for reverse, frantically moving the stick back and forth. Of course it’s no surprise my dad bought me a car with a stick shift without taking the time to teach me how to master driving the thing.

Alex takes a step toward my car. My instincts tell me to abandon the car and flee, as if I was stuck on railroad tracks with a train heading straight for me.

Of course they’re immediately assigned to be lab partners in Chemistry class (based on the alphabetical order of their last names, natch).  Initially, they barely tolerate each other and try to outsmart the other with their witty banter and attitudes.

But are the attitudes covering something?  Could there be more beneath the surface?  Or are the stereotypes true?  When a fellow gang member offers his car in a bet to see if Alex can bed the perfect Brittany by Thanksgiving, he figures she’s too lily-white for him to truly be interested in.  She means nothing to him, so of course he takes the bet.

They are forced to spend time together to work on their Chemistry project and pretty soon sparks start to fly.  They begin to see another side of each other.  Ice princess with a not-so-perfect home life?  Check.  Gang member with a heart of gold?  Check.  Clichés abound, but they work here.  Elkeles’ writing makes them seem new and different.  You can see the development of their relationship and it happens in a very believable way.

Something is happening. I sense a change in the wind . . . a mutual understanding of each other. I haven’t felt this way in forever.

There is plenty of sizzle as their dislike turns to lust, both of them insisting there’s nothing there.  Once they get past the stereotypes, their relationship moves at a lightning fast pace.  They fall hard and fast, as teenagers tend to do.

“And what do you want right now?”  Right now I itch to heal his wounds and forget my own. He touches my cheek with the tips of his fingers.

My breath hitches.  “Do you want to kiss me, Alex?” I whisper.

“Dios mío, I want to kiss you . . . to taste your lips, your tongue.” He gently traces my lips with the tips of his fingers. “Do you want me to kiss you? Nobody else would know but the two of us.”

Each chapter alternates between Alex’s and Brittany’s point of view which I felt made it easy to get into the story, to know what they are thinking.  Both main characters, and most of the supporting players, are very well-developed.  You care quickly about them and understand why they do the things they do.  They are flawed and gritty and real.

There is cussing a’plenty (in 2 different languages – bonus!) and lusty sexy scenes that made my heart go pitter patter.  But again, it all felt very real and honest.

The sum up:  Perfect Chemistry rocks.  The premise feels new and fresh.  The romance is raw and honest.  Put this on your must read list right now.

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