So I've had Chain Reaction on my shelf for a while now. Considering how much I love Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, you'd think I'd rush and read it as soon as I finished those books. After all, I had it here ready to go.
But no. I didn't do that. And it's not because of any of the usual suspects. By this point Simone Elkeles has my confidence that she will provide a great story and a memorable romance. The reason I stalled here is because I didn't want the series to be over.
But all good things must come to an end. Chain Reaction continues the awesome storytelling present in the first two books and serves as a fitting and satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy. Now let's talk about why.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.
Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.
Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?
Chain Reaction starts out differently then the other two books. We actually get to meet Luis and Nikki earlier in their high school days, while Luis is still living in Boulder. This is very important, because it sets up the background and history between the characters that carries throughout the rest of the book.
It also draws on one of the strengths of the Perfect Chemistry series as a whole -- the fact that characters reoccur and that fragments of past couples lives together get woven in to what is happening with the current couple. It was cool to get to "see" Brittany and Alex's wedding, and later to "be there" as Carlos proposes to Kiara. Luis' and Nikki's presence at these events, and what happens because of them, ties back in to the story that is mainly occurring. I felt it was very smart writing and pretty cool as a nod to fans of the other books.
I liked the fact that the book did such a good job at dealing with the way that different people feel about and present their nationality, as well. The contrast between Nikki and Luis despite the fact that both have parents who were born in Mexico was pretty interesting. So was the "secret" regarding Luis and the LB (Latino Blood). In regards to the gang aspect of the book, as usual it was interesting and added conflict and situations that ensured the balance that has been set for this series continues and that Chain Reaction is a page turner.
Simone Elkeles continues her tradition of creating characters who are exciting, easily related to and worth cheering for. Nikki was a great heroine. Her struggle to trust was well motivated and the situations she faced throughout the book were moving. She is under some pressure to continue the strides of success that her parents began and she does not take it well when things she decides to do divert her from that. I also loved how her warmth as a character was shown at the animal shelter. I love dogs and any character who is nice to them will tend to win me over.
Luis shares some traits with his brothers -- he's confident, charming, a total flirt and ultimately a great guy. Yet he has certain things that are all his own. He is incredibly smart and has been encouraged by his family to pursue this from a young age. He wants to be an astronaut. He also wants to do the right thing and generally tries to showcase his rebellious streak through high adrenaline activities or risk taking. As Luis learns about his past, though, he has to make tough choices and decide whether he will accept the truth of what he learns or create his own path.
The other thing, and I'm pretty sure I praised this in Rules of Attraction as well, is that all the characters readers have grown to love throughout the series make appearances and these actually tend to be important in some way to the story being told. In the acknowledgements Simone Elkeles calls the series the "books of my heart" and the attention to detail and vivid imagining of not only what happens now, within the context of the story, but also of what she shows happen in the futures of her characters, both through cameos and her epilogues for each book, make me believe that this is genuine and true.
I liked the variety of conflicts that Luis and Nikki had to deal with. Not only did they face parental concerns since both Luis mother and Nikki's parents want their children to have great futures academically, they also have unique personal issues that come into play as the story progresses. Nikki has extreme and well founded trust issues that make it hard for her to think of being in a relationship. Not only does this effect what is happening with Luis, she also interferes with her friend Kendal's relationship with her boyfriend Derek, constantly telling them that they are wasting their time.
Luis conflicts romantically change as the story progresses. Initially he is actually in a certain level of agreement with his mother He does not want to get too involved because of his dream of becoming an astronaut. As the story progresseses, new and less desirable reasons become a problem for Luis and jeopardize both his goals for the future and the relationship that he begins with Nikki.
One of the other things that I must commend Simone Elkeles for in this particular novel is that she actually has Nikki be a true hero by the end of the book. Her actions are certainly of the do-not-try-this-at-home variety, but I felt that the resolution to what was happening was very fitting within the actual story and within Nikki's character and her relationship with Luis as a whole.
Chain Reaction is another great example of a book where all the lights in the house are on. Everything lines up -- great characters, great plot, great pacing -- to make a book that I simply did not want to put down. I read this in spare moments over the course of several days because I had company and the wait between each 'sit down and read' session was torture. I constantly found my mind wandering back to the story and wondering what would happen next.
A stellar conclusion to an absolutely awesome trilogy, Chain Reaction deserves its place alongside Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction. If you have not read the Perfect Chemistry trilogy, what are you waiting for? And if you've read the other books, have no fear: Chain Reaction is the fantastic and satisfying conclusion that we have all hoped and waited for. In short: a book that is not to be missed.