Monday, June 14, 2010

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles [Book Inspection] [YA]

Plot Sketch: So Brittany Ellis is the captain of the pom-pom squad.  She's worked hard to keep her home life a secret from everyone at school and to keep up her reputation as perfect.  She dates the quarterback, she gets good grades, and she never gets into trouble.  Then there's Alejandro Fuentes, who wants very much to be called Alex.  He's a prominent member of the Latino Bloods on campus, but pretty low-level in the gang on a grand scale.  He sports his attitude and his red bandana around and no one wants to mess with him.  It's the first day of school and Brittany almost hits Alex on his motorcycle as she's pulling into a parking spot.  After she parks and gets up to the school steps, Alex tries to intimidate her and by doing so lands him in the principal's office.  Then comes Chemistry class with Mrs. P.  Assigned alphabetical seats.  Fuentes comes right after Ellis, so Brittany and Alex become lab partners.  Alex takes a bet that he can have sex with Brittany before Thanksgiving, and the relationship and world-collisions commence.

Verdict: I adored this book.  Not only is it not your typical boy-makes-bet-about-girl ending, it's a delightful read.  There are STRONG LANGUAGE, GANGS and all that they entail, and plenty of SEXUAL REFERENCES/SCENES, so it's really only appropriate for older teens and adults.  Parents - be careful with this one with your kids, please.  Now back to the story.  I think I loved it so much because it admitted what it was in the text - it compared itself to GREASE, so I don't have to.  The characters grew without becoming someone they weren't to begin with.  They always knew who they were, but discovered that they could show who they were on the outside and not have to keep up facades.  I liked that gang life wasn't depicted as something that was easy to leave behind and that the reasons that people join gangs in the first place were accurately depicted.  I also liked that the characters, though teens and flawed, were not stupid.  The one thing I didn't like about the plot was the way that Brittany used sex to manipulate.

The Gauntlet:

Location: suburb of Chicago, IL
Main Character: There are two.  The chapters alternate whose point of view the story is told from.  Brittany Ellis and Alex Fuentes.  I liked them both.
Favorite Character: I liked Mrs. P.  I can't really elaborate much, or I'll spoil, but if every teacher in America was like Mrs. P, we'd have the most awesome, promising children in the world.
Time to Finish: About four hours. It's a super fast read.
Got Stuck On: Nada.  ¡Fue magnifico! (how'd I do, Ella?, alannah?)
Would Change: I can't think of anything to change.
Favorite Line: "I'm having a nightmare that a thousand little Oompa Loompas are in my head, hammering my skull.  Opening my eyes to bright light, I wince.  The Oompa Loompas are still in there, and I'm awake." p 125, paperback.
Good for Monster? No way.  Way too much of a romance for most men.
People Who Will Like This:  people who love a classic love story, Coloradans,
People Who Won't Like This: rich people who have sticks up their bums,
Chapters:  58 + epilogue.  I liked the way the chapters switched points of view.  I think it's probably super tricky to write a book like that, so I say, "Bravo!"
Author's Website

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Reader
Publish Date: December 23, 2008
ISBN-10: 0802798225

Acquire It:
Book Depository
Changing Hands


  • Watch the trailer (which I kinda don't like):
  • I read this as part of a book group, and so I'm sure my thoughts were influenced by members of the book group during our discussion of the book.  


YA Vampire Books said...

Great inspection! I loved this book!

AtenRa said...

Perfect Chemistry was on my TBR list for a while but I was always on the fence about buying it.But when I saw your tweet that said you loved it and some other people's reviews who obviously were crazy about it,I bought it and I hope I get it this week!
I believe it's "Era magnifico" or "Era maravilloso". But I'm not really sure....

Maria the Bookworm said...

Simone Elkeles is one of my favourite authors after reading Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise. Can't wait for the sequels :)

Angiegirl said...

Ha! I love that you recommend this book to Coloradans. That's awesome.

I loved this one as well.

Tawnya said...

Ok, so don't judge a book by it's cover, cuz gag, and that trailer was h-I-l-a-r-I-o-u-s, but not too helpful in depicting the characters. Trailer came off as very shallow and while the lyrics, aka plot lines, were accurate whoever made the trailer was reading a different book than I was. On it's own hilarious, but I probably wouldn't read that book.