YA Romance Reviews

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles — Best Opposites Attract Novel EVER

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Image from Amazon.com

Oh my god–read this book now!  Last week, I attended the Romance Writer’s of America Conference in NYC where I was surrounded by wonderful books and authors who wrote them (will blog soon!), but I couldn’t touch a single book until finished PERFECT CHEMISTRY.  This super hot opposites attract novel actually made NJ Transit fun.

Here is the summary from Amazon.com:

A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.

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’m going to start where I finished with this book, and that’s by reading the Acknowledgements section in the back.  There, Elkeles thanks several people who helped her research so that she might add believable Spanish and Mexican culture to her book.  This makes this story especially believable and lends incredible authority to her hero, Alex a.k.a. Alejandro Fuentes, a boy from the other side of the tracks with a good heart who joined a gang to protect his family.  He is intelligent and has college potential but has given up his long-ago hope for a better life, feeling he is already in too deep to ever break free.

Brittany Ellis comes from an incredibly wealthy but broken family.  Her father is a workaholic, her mother has anxiety and obsesses over perfection, and Brittany struggles to protect a sister who has cerebral palsy.  On the outside, Brittany has the best clothes, the best car, and the perfect life, but inside, she’s falling apart.  Pressure from her mother to obtain impossible standards and pressure she puts on herself to care for her sister in order to avoid her being sent away is just too much.  Soon, something will have to give.

When Alex and Brittany are paired as lab partners, each judges the other based on surface appearances.  Each seems disgusted with the other, but there is a spark of attraction obvious to the students around them.  The secondary characters in this book constantly warn Alex and Brittany against a doomed relationship, even when Alex and Brittany themselves are not yet ready to accept their own attraction.  I found this rather interesting–that their friends could see how much they wanted each other even when they were in strict denial.

As Alex and Brittany grow closer, they see past the armor and find they have a lot more in common than they originally imagined.  They are both fundamentally good people, trapped within their roles.  As things heat up between them, the plot thickens.  Of course, both Alex and Brittany care deeply for one or more members of their family.  This makes it impossible to extract themselves from their world of cemented roles and expectations.  As they try to break out, things only get worse.  Elkeles did a beautiful job of painting her characters into a corner.  Without giving away the ending, I’ll say I was very satisfied with it.  Elkeles really made her protagonists work for their happily ever after.

Check out Simone Elkeles’ webpage to find out more about PERFECT CHEMISTRY and the other books in her Perfect Chemistry Series!

Michelle Joyce Bond

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