REVIEW: “Perfect Chemistry,” Simone Elkeles
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Title: Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Published: December, 2008 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 368
Rating: ★★★★½ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

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.

Final Thoughts:
It may have taken me five years to get around to this long-standing resident on my bookshelf, but time hasn’t diminished it. Even with the characters’ use of flip phones, I never found it dated. Brittany and Alex simply took hold of the story and drew me right into their complicated high school and home lives. With alternating perspectives, each are quite distinct, never confusing you as to whose head you’re in—Alex, the gang member, putting up a front to keep his family safe, and Brittany, the head cheerleader, putting up her own front to appease her parents, help with her disabled sister, and make their lives easier.

Although it’s very much about the romance, the plot doesn’t lack, in fact, I felt as if I really got to know these characters and worry about what was going on in their lives. The side characters aren’t nearly as fleshed out, but considering how much I enjoyed reading about Alex and Brittany, that didn’t bother me so much. The gang scenes added a fair bit of tension to the story and a sense of realism. The book didn’t hold back and sugar coat things. Alex’s father was dead because of gang issues, killed when Alex was young, and now Alex’s younger brothers were being targeted as potential recruits.

Brittany’s life, while not as life-or-death, still had its own tensions. Her parents too consumed with keeping up appearances, left Brittany with little room to be her own person. Worried for her sister, whom her parents seem unable to look after, Brittany spends a lot of time trying to mollify her mother and keep peace in the household. Keeping up the charade of perfection while at school, her love life feels forced, staying with one of the preppy, popular guys, even though all he seems to want from her is sex.

Insert Alex and Brittany’s forced interaction through assigned seating in their chemistry class and things start to go somewhere. There is plenty of initial bickering, pranks and of course, flirting, but eventually things start to become real and you can’t seem to let go of the book. OMG, the first kiss, moments like that just felt so intense. The writing here is really descriptive without it feeling like an instruction manual. It manages to come across as steamy while still keeping it relatively PG. I wouldn’t say it’s for kids though, with occasional f-bombs sprinkled throughout.

I went into this wanting an addictive romance, and that’s exactly what I got. The only struggle now is finding the rest of her books. I feel like I’ve left it too late, with none of the book shops I’ve been to this past week stocking any of her books. I need more. Struggling to hold back glassy eyes as I finished Perfect Chemistry, it left me with the biggest grin on my face.

Recommended to:
Others wanting to lose themselves in a romance.