Sunday, June 20, 2010

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles: My Review

Blurb from the cover:  
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. Forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, Brittany finds herself having to protect everything she’s worked so hard for – her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend and, most importantly, 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 the closer Alex and Brittany get to each other the more they realise that sometimes appearances can be deceptive and that you have to look beneath the surface to discover the truth.

My thoughts:

Definitely rated Edgy YA for swearing, sex, and violence. But that's kind of a no-brainer since this book is about what happens when a gangbanger falls for a pom squad captain. The story is well-written and believable, and--though I had to put the book down to get some sleep--the characters were still fresh in my mind the next morning. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to them, mostly Alex Fuentes. Brittany was a little too perfect for my liking. The cracks in her picture-perfect image only serve to make her sweeter, more self-less, and more likable. That's fine, but it made her seem a little unrealistic to me, too. Her only flaw was her obsession with image. What about real flaws, like being too judgmental or having a chip on her shoulder? Alex was a very well-rounded character, however, and brought a gritty sense of reality to their love story.


Other reviewers have called the ending overly saccharine, but I thought it was perfect. Then again, I've always been a sucker for sweet and sappy romances. 


I loved the quirky, funny moments in the book, especially with Paco, Alex's BFF. The bathroom scene at the wedding is hilarious. If they ever make this into a movie, that's the scene to watch for.

Things I loved about the book:

  • Gangs are not glorified
  • Promiscuity is not glorified (in fact, it's seen as rather pathetic)
  • The author's faithfulness to the good, bad, and ugly in gang life
  • The themes of loyalty to family, to love, to self
  • The theme of progress: you create your own future, no matter how stuck you feel
  • The theme that you can't control everything
  • A truthful and compassionate look at life with special needs (love Shelley!)
Overall, a worthwhile read. As a mom, I wouldn't want my kids to read this until they are at least 16, which I think is probably a pretty standard caveat for edgy YA with high school seniors as the MCs. But for adults who can take the nearly constant swearing, you might enjoy this emotional love story, and learn something about gang culture in the process.

I applaud Simone Elkeles for taking on such difficult subjects and maintaining truth and compassion throughout.

Next Read: EVERMORE by Alyson Noel. Read along with me and join the discussion next week!


  1. I fell in love with this book right from the blurb. Alex's gang life was what interested me most, especially since it was so gritty. And I totally agree--the bathroom scene with Paco left me laughing for a good ten minutes!! I still can't get that out of my mind!

    I love Simone's writing, so I'm definitely excited for Rules Of Attraction. Hope to get my hands on it soon. Cool review, by the way!

  2. Yes! That back cover blurb (the part with dialogue from Chemistry class) is what made me buy the book. Simone is a genius with dialogue.

    I wonder how she'll make Rules of Attraction different, since Carlos seems like a younger version of Alex. Maybe his love interest will be way different from Brittany. It's fun in the sneak peek chapter to see Alex all grown up.


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