Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

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Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Melanie Allen
Reviewed by Melanie Allen
Summary: A romance that tackles issues surrounding love, crime, death and broken families in a way that is very relatable to its target audience. Enjoyable, but slightly predictable read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847388056

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Perfect Chemistry is like a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It explores that timeless story of boy-meets-girl, the impossibility of them belonging together, and their struggle to make it work – just add in some gangs, guns, and cheerleaders for good measure.

On the outside, Brittany is the flawless high-school girl. She has the perfect hair, the perfect outfit, and the perfect boyfriend. Any girl should be jealous of her, right? Wrong. Underneath the immaculately applied mascara lies a multitude of family problems, her despair at the thought of her severely disabled sister being bundled off to a nursing home never leaving her mind. She has to keep her hurt hidden to save her image, but surely enough this mask starts to crack as more and more of her life refuses to live up to the expectations she has forced upon herself.

Alex could not be more different from this seemingly blonde, one-dimensional, rich girl. A member of the Mexican gang, Latino Blood, Alex is more likely to carry a gun than a designer bag; to receive a black eye instead of a college acceptance letter. He knows he's on the wrong side of the tracks, and uses his charm to milk it for all he can! Despite his violent, cocky, and dangerous character, you can't help but warm to him – his intentions behind his actions are always to protect his brothers and those he loves.

Brittany and Alex are immediately set up as complete polar opposites – the ultimate enemies in any kind of school social ranking system. Surely nothing could bring them together? But when they are partnered together for school chemistry lessons the initial friction between them inadvertently morphs into romance. They're both so isolated, both reluctant to fulfil the false lives they have created for themselves, that they find comfort in each other.

The plot is a little obvious at times – you can guess from the first page the path that the story will take. Yet the characters are fun and the dynamics between them add humour. It thrives upon teenage innocence and rebellion, and the twists and turns are definitely adrenaline-driven. This story works well due to Simone Elkeles' technique of writing the story from both viewpoints, in alternating chapters. Each voice is very distinct – Alex weaving Spanish words and phrases into his narration, Brittany convincingly shaking off her superficial image. Hearing both voices in this way makes the read a very smooth and consistent one. Each character picks up exactly where the last narrator left off, leaving no confusing plot or time jumps that might puzzle readers.

The main thing that I admired about this book was the way it tackled some mature and sensitive issues in a way that doesn't patronise teen readers. Its occasional use of explicit language isn't forced or added in for show, but makes the dialogue realistic and, I think, more relatable. Often, its tone is no worse than you would hear in a school courtyard, but I could understand that sometimes the words may be a little strong for younger readers.

Although I was sucked into the story, its use of clichés and melodramatic, angst-ridden scenarios were definitely overdone, and occasionally tiresome. Perhaps it's because the main idea behind the story is so familiar, but personally I was expecting more from the ending – it seemed to fall a little flat at the pinnacle point, and the last few chapters seemed hurried and too perfect considering the characters' rocky start. Saying that, it captures that rush of feelings associated with first love nicely, and it certainly has more than one, Aww! moment for those who like a happy ending.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you liked this, I'd recommend Double Cross (Noughts & Crosses) by Malorie Blackman – it's equally tense and emotionally complicated, where romance is challenged in a far-from-perfect world.

Buy Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles at

Buy Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles at


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