Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

My Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Awesome!

After reading Perfect Chemistry there was no doubt in my mind that I would be reading Rules of Attraction. I had to know Carlos' story, plus the reviews I read on other blogs assured me that this series was not a one trick pony.

I'm here to tell you that Rules of Attraction is the best of both worlds -- everything that was great about Perfect Chemistry is great here, too. But this is its own book, with its own plot and its own main characters. And there story is distinct, unique and completely worth reading.

Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.

If Alex's story was about trying to escape, Carlos' story is about learning that he wants to escape. Carlos  has long ago accepted the fact that he needs to be in a gang to take care of his family. He knows he needs to be tough and guard himself so that no one will ever leave him again -- his father did this by dying and Alex did this by choosing a new life that could include Brittany.

The contrast between Alex, who wanted to succeed and (for the most part) had to pull himself up, and Carlos, who wanted to be who he was and yet desperately needed help even though he struggled with it, makes this book avoid being a repetition of Perfect Chemistry. I enjoyed watching Carlos' interactions with the Westfields, at his new school, dealing with the members of REACH and ultimately freeing himself from Devlin, gangs, etc. so that he could have a shot at a real future.

I'm having trouble talking about plot here. Can you tell? That's because, to me, these books are so tightly knit between plot and character that separating the two is almost impossible. I liked watching the Ultimates game, seeing Carlos' and Kiara help Kiara's mom at Hospitali-Tea and watching them go to Homecoming. The scenes with Brittany and Alex will also likely be appreciated by fans. Also, please understand that I tend to define these books by the guys because each brother gets a book. It's not that Brittany, Kiara, etc. aren't as good -- the boys just make better sign posts, so to speak.

Characters:

I found myself more able to relate to Kiara, although I don't mean that to make Brittany any lesser. Kiara is not high up on the social foodchain. She has her best friend, Tuck, her family and that's about it. Until Carlos enters her life and everything kinda goes crazy. I liked the fact that Kiara was her own person and that she stood true to this regardless of how difficult it was or how scared she might be at any given time. I liked her for walking a fine line between caring about Carlos and realizing when he was real v.s. when he was talking absolute crap.

I thought that Carlos made for a very interesting hero. From page one we get that Carlos is a rebel and that he does things his own way. Yet Elkeles does an amazing job of making sure to show glimmers of the person Carlos can be. I think that is really important; she showed us that the good parts of Carlos have always been there. It's not like he goes through some type of 180 degree transformation at the end of the book. I found myself admiring Carlos, laughing at some of the things he said or situations he got into ("What's a labrodoodle?") and overall sympathizing with his situation. I wanted to see him succeed just as much as I wanted to see him end up with Kiara.

I also want to make certain that I give a bit of praise for the entire Westfield family. I think that the way these characters were handled was very well done. It's always refreshing to see an author have an active family life for the teens in their story rather then having mom / dad / siblings disappear like they were abducted by aliens. In this case, the family was actually very important to the story.

The Romance:

This is definitely a case where opposites attract. Kiara is shy, smart and follows her families rules most of the time. Carlos' brand of smarts is more about survival, he is cocky and he is rebellious. I like the fact that neither character's differing traits were made to be something that should be looked down on. I also liked the fact that they were shown to have things in common -- they like to fix cars, they like sports, they like to dance, etc.

In doing this, Elkeles makes her story accessible to a wide variety of readers and she avoids the pitfall of having two people fall in love because the guy was hot, with no further explanation as to why the girl was attracted to him. There was definite chemistry between Kiara and Carlos and I feel that the reader was not left in the dark about that fact, which is vital in this kind of book.

In General:

This was a page turner. I stayed up way too late reading it and didn't want to put it down. Once again, Elkeles' decision to switch her pov from Carlos to Kiara allowed her to show the story off to its best effect and she also successfully used it as a tool to keep the pace of the tale from ever faltering from moving in fast forward. There were some real issues tackled here but also some genuinely funny moments that had me laughing out loud, which is always welcome.

This is a must read for fans of Perfect Chemistry. And if you haven't read Perfect Chemistry yet, what are you waiting for? Each novel can be read independent of the other, but I feel the overall effect is better together. Rules of Attraction is a welcome and worty addition to what is shaping up to be an awesome trilogy. Highly recommended! 

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful review! Agree with you completely. I truly love the Perfect Chemistry Trilogy and am really sad that it is over :)

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