IQ "'No matter how much you want her in your life, she doesn't belong. A triangle can't fit into a square. Now I'll shut up.' Isa
'Gracias'. I don't point out that if it's a big enough square, a small triangle can fit inside perfectly. All you have to do is make a few adjustments in the equation." Alex pg. 121
This novel has the perfect romance! Well, since there' s no such thing as perfect, it's as close to a perfect romance as you can get. Perfect Chemistry lives up its title, the chemistry between Alex Fuentes and Brittany Ellis is sizzling ;) Seriously this novel turned a non-Romance lover (before Perfect Shot, I wouldn't have even touched a novel solely about romance, so I was slowly changing my mind) into someone who will no longer turn up their nose automatically if a romance novel is recommended to them. I read this novel twice in three days! I started reading it right before I went to sleep, thinking I would be able to put it down. Nuh-uh. I stayed up from midnight till about two in the morning reading this novel. Then I read it again the next day because the romance was beyond adorable, I needed to find some good quotes and I wanted to be sure I hadn't missed a single detail of the story. It's also the ONLY book to ever make me say 'OMG!' out-loud (I died a little inside, don't judge me).
It's a classic Romeo and Juliet story with a modern day twist. Set in Fairfield (a fictional suburb of Chicago) the new Romeo is Latino Blood (a gang) member Alex Fuentes and Juliet is the wealthy, white Brittany Ellis. Alex is poor and from the southside. It's whispered that he comes strapped to class, comes to school high and has been arrested countless times. Brittany is rich, captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the captain of the football team, is from the northside and has a seemingly perfect life. Alex and Brittany are forced to be partners all senior year in chemistry class (and now I have to quote the back cover) "the results are bound to be explosive. But neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all-love." However, everyone is rooting against their relationship (including their friends), they are just too different and Alex can never give Brittany what she wants. His lifestyle is dangerous and hers is all about reputation, safety and perfection.
Within the first few pages, you are drawn into the story by the witty one-liners, sarcasm and bantering between Alex and Brittany. They've never even talked till senior year and Brittany almost runs Alex over with her car while he is on his motorcycle which is a result of some very playful innuendos and jokes throughout the rest of the year (actually a lot of events in the book involved a car or car keys). Unlike other YA novels where the two main characters are supposed to be love interests but have no chemistry between them, this novel has a ton of it. The air is fraught with sexual tension for most of the book, but there are some really sweet, funny and heartbreaking moments as well. The romance between Brittany and Alex is hard to describe because all I can think of is AWESOME. It's a realistic relationship; they go through low lows and high highs. Half the fun is reading their flirty dialogue that they disguise as contempt for each other. The novel doesn't focus on sex and there is nothing too graphic. Also too my immense relief there is no huge misunderstanding that tears the two main characters apart. Those are annoying and played out (make no mistake, there are a lot of issues they have to work through). When you finish Perfect Chemistry, you are going to want your own Alex Fuentes (or Brittany Ellis). Personally, Alex is my current favorite YA love interest (sorry Paul and Jace) of all-time. He's the best bad boy and he has a motorcycle. And he speaks Spanish! This is a bit random, but something I really liked about the novel was there is no Spanish-English glossary in the back. I'm glad! If readers want to know what's being said they have to work a little and look it up online and perhaps they will learn a little more of the Spanish language :)
The story is told in alternating points of view in each chapter from Brittany and Alex. It was the best way to go for this novel so that we don't get all of one perspective and get to see both sides. The reader knows immediately that Brittany's life can't possibly be perfect and the author doesn't try to make it some big dramatic secret, which is nice. Readers are let in on Brittany's life right away. I especially applaud the author on having different family drama (it's not typically seen in YA novels, at least not the ones I've read), it's not predictable at all and it was very eye-opening. The relationship between Brittany and her older sister Shelley is a beautiful one and Brittany definitely wins the 'best younger sister in YA award'. Brittany's parents are almost cliches, but then they surprise you. They start out as typical; workaholic father, mother who only cares about the family's reputation and image (think of the neighbors!) but we learn more about the mother. The father did however remain a bit of cliche, but the mother was original.
The author also created an authentic high school. There were no mean girls and obnoxious cliques. There were cliques, but they were more low-key and there wasn't much time spent on them and there are some annoying, obnoxious characters, but they only play a small part in the story (this is true in real life too, the cliques and mean girls are there but they aren't a big deal, they don't dominate high school). There are definitely cliques formed based on location (and so they become racial cliques. In Chicago the SouthSide is mostly African Americans, the Northside is whites and the Westside is Latinos, but since Fairfield is fictional this doesn't apply) and the author explores that theme here. As Alex says "diversity breeds knowledge. But I've also seen it breed hatred and ignorance." and one of the best examples of that is high school. Also, when Alex and Brittany start dating (no that's not a spoiler, you must have seen that coming!And if you didn't, oh well) their friends aren't all kumbuyah, let's all hold hands. They are stubborn and unwilling to accept it. Slowly people come around, but it's a small number and not everyone does. That's a realistic portrayal. Most of the characters of the novel are genuine and well-rounded. Even characters only briefly mentioned add to the story and provide some sort of depth. I sort of wish I had their chemistry teacher, Mrs. Peterson. She's a hard grader and strict, but she really believes in her students, "If you think you can't change the world, then go on and follow he path already carved out for you. But there are other roads to choose, they're just harder to trudge through. Changing the world isn't easy, but I sure as hell am going to keep trying. Are you?"
I know some people think the ending was melodramatic, but based on what I know about gangs (Chicago is one of the main cities with the most gang violence and teens killing teens so I've read/heard enough) I wouldn't say it was melodramatic at all. It was realistic. That stuff happens, it's no picnic being in a gang, the feeling of family is often false and most people join gangs to protect their families, not necessarily themselves. I think Simone Elkeles captured that element of gang life perfectly. And yes the ultimate ending might have been a bit cheesy but really, did you want it any other way?
What makes this novel special is not the fact that it's fairly predictable, because yes it is (although there were some parts were I almost cried and there are plenty of twists and dramatic moments). What makes Perfect Chemistry special is that it provides an authentic, heart-warming, sad, humorous look into romance and high school life with a great cast of characters that you will be able to relate to. High school and up
PS You Must Watch the hilarious book trailer for Perfect Chemistry here (If I only I knew how to embed videos into this post). The uncut version isn't inappropriate or anything, I recommend you watch that one.
PPSS I'm SO EXCITED for the sequel Rules of Attraction (it will be WoWd soon)
Have a Happy New Year!