Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Brittany Ellis radiates perfect wherever she goes: perfect home life, perfect friends, perfect grades and perfect boyfriend. But all is not what it seems in Brittany’s life, particularly when it comes to her home life, and it appears to just be a facade she fronts. When Brittany is forced to partner Alex Fuentes, notorious gang member from the southside, Brittany’s life begins to unravel. Alex makes a bet with his friends that he can lure Brittany into his life, he’s fairly confident he can achieve it but neither Brittany nor Alex know just what’s going to happen when they begin to get to know each other better. Is it possible that Brittany and Alex have more in common than they think? And just what are they going to do when the sparks start to fly?

These days when I’m looking for book recommendations I search the blogosphere and see what reviews jump out at me and may sound as if they’re the type of book I’d like to read. Once such book I saw appearing everywhere was Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elekeles. It came out in America last year but was only just being published in the UK this April and absolutely everybody was raving about how fantastic it was. I had the chance to pick the book up half price from so pre-ordered it and awaited it’s release date. I was thrilled when I received it a month and a half early and I started it during the week-end.

I can’t say I really knew what to expect when I started Perfect Chemistry. When you begin a book so many people loved there’s definitely a sense of expectation there that says I should love it, too. I eagerly started Perfect Chemistry and I was surprised at how quickly I got into the book. At first both Brittany and Alex fit their respective stereotypes: Brittany is essentially perfect but of course, as is usually the case, that’s not exactly the truth. Ditto Alex, he’s a gangbanger who acts tougher than he really is. Both project a front that isn’t necessarily them which is something we learn from the outset – Brittany tells us herself that she “works her butt off to come across as though she’s perfect”.

The fact that Brittany and Alex are so different makes for some interesting reading as they get paired together in chemistry class. They both believe the front the other projects so Brittany thinks Alex’s is nothing more than a gangbanger and drug dealer and Alex believes Brittany is self-obsessed and has everything land in her lap. Alex then makes a deal with his friends that he’ll try and lure Brittany into his world and as the two get to know each other it seems they have more than just chemistry in common. I’m sure some people might think the plot is a bit too convenient: Mexicano boy falls for white girl (and vice versa) but I found it incredibly interesting. I liked getting into Brittany’s and Alex’s heads and for all they project to the world, there are actual depths in there to be explored and I enjoyed doing that.

Brittany and Alex are both fantastic characters. They spark off each other really well and their chemsitry together is evident pretty much from the off. The book is told in alternating points of view from both Brittany and Alex so they are essentially both the main characters of the book. It’s easy to see why they both fall for each other (hot gang member anyone? beautiful rich girl?) and I enjoyed as they went from hating each other to loving each other as the book progressed. None of the other characters in the book really stand out as the book is essentially about Brittany and Alex but some of the recurring characters do make lasting impressions. In particular Brittany’s sister Shelley who is ill. I thought it was sad to read about what happened to Shelley and to see just what Brittany and Shelley’s parents wanted to do about it but Brittany’s protectiveness was fierce and shone off the pages.

A lot of research must have went into Perfect Chemistry as there is a lot of talk about what it is to be in a gang. And believe me, some of it is not pretty. A lot is made about Alex being a member of the Latino Bloods and it was, at times, difficult to read. Not because it was graphic or anything but because there are gangs everywhere who do the things mentioned in Perfect Chemistry. Simone Elkeles doesn’t shy away from what happens when you’re in a gang – or wanting to get out for that matter and I applaud her for that because she really didn’t hold back. Her writing is very easy to read and both Brittany and Alex are easy to distinguish when it comes to their alternating chapters (even without their names above each chapter, may I add). The ending of the book (or near-ending, to be precise) actually made me quite sad. Some things go down that although I saw coming I never actually expected to happen and although it made me tear up I also thought it was… fitting. The actual ending itself just made me smile and the Epilogue more so.

I absolutely adored Perfect Chemistry and I’m incredibly pleased I took the plunge and bought it for myself. It both thrills and terrifies me that there’s a sequel of sorts coming out in America in the next few days called Rules of Attraction. It thrills me because I adored Perfect Chemistry yet it terrifies me for the same reason. I’m torn between pre-ordering it and waiting a while because I don’t want to feel let down by it. That’s how good I thought Perfect Chemistry was and I look forward to the time when I’ll almost certainly pick it up to read it again!


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