<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
This book was recommended to me by friends on Absolute Write. I was looking for books that depicted a well done YA romance. The book I'm writing is urban fantasy / romance, but I wanted to read some books that had a more slow building and believable relationship. Perfect Chemistry did not disappoint. It fit the bill... perfectly. I'll do my best to tell you why I think this book is so amazing.
The Plot: (from GoodReads)
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.
This book was fascinating to read because of how carefully the ties between plot and character were built. At the front, you obviously have the slow building relationship between Alex and Brittany, which moves from "I can't stand you" to the two being deeply in love. At the same time, you have the struggles of a girl trying desperately to live up to her parents unreal expectations. (Spoiler: So that she can keep them from sending her sister, who has Cerebral Palsy, away.) You also have the story of a young man who has committed his life to a gang, rather then to following his dreams, so that he can protect his family.
This only barely scratches the surface of what goes on in this book. Every character we meet is that for a reason by the time that the story draws to a close. The pace is quick, the dialogue is by turns funny or touching and the use of two first person narratives allows the reader to see into both Brittany and Alex's worlds. The contrasts between these two different lives, and the distinctness of each character, allows Elkeles to weave a story that is hard to put down because the reader wants to know either how the other character is going to react to what is happening, or what is happening to the other character while Alex and Brittany are on their own. In a word: addictive.
Brittany and Alex were both complex, well rounded characters. I felt that the voice for each was clear and distinct and that the way they were written enriched the way that the reader connects to them. I also like the fact that we get to see Alex's softer side and Brittany growing stronger and standing up for who she really is rather then continuing to be what people want or expect. Through their actions throughout the book, it slowly becomes apparent that these two seeming polar opposites actually bring out the best in each other.
I thought that the other characters were generally well done, too. I liked watching Brittany become friends with Isabel. I thought that Doug and Sierra were an interesting couple. And Paco was just plain amazing. (Read the book and you'll understand why...) I also thought that the contrasts in Brittany and Alex's relationships with their parents was an interesting situation. Both had either absent or absentee fathers (for very different reasons) and strong mothers (although the results of their 'strength' in the lives of their children were very different as well.)
I really liked how this was done. It took time for them to become interested in each other, and then time for them to be together. We actually get to see what they are like as a couple, and get to see them evolve from Brittany being worried who seems them, to a point where she is willing to risk her perfectly crafted reputation in order to be with the one she loves.
Alex is no slouch in the sacrifice department either. Elkeles sets up the story with Alex taking a bet. But by the end of the book, he redeems himself for that decision in ways that range from shocking to utterly heartbreaking. Despite any actions he make have taken in the past, by the end of the story there is no doubt that Alex is worthy of Brittany and that the love the two share is absolute, solid and real. Alex is the kind of hero that I fell in love with alongside the heroine. In a romance, I cannot give higher praise then this.
I thought that the double ending was sweet -- both the Five Months Later as well as the epilogue. It covered everything that needed to be said and left my with a warm happy feeling, which is generally what I am looking for when I read a love story.
Perfect Chemistry hit all the right notes for me. I cared about the characters, I cheered for Alex and Brittany to get together. I laughed when they laughed and cried when they cried. The pacing was perfect, showing both the slow progression of two people falling in love and the hectic craziness that can happen as days go by. I never found myself bored or skimming. In fact, I really had trouble putting the book down for any reason.
Perfect Chemistry is a story I know I will read again. If you are looking for a story of true love, one where you can fall in love right beside the characters, this is the book you need. Highly recommended!