Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

After finishing Rules of Attraction, I knew there was no way to review it without referencing Perfect Chemistry.  So, here they are – reviews for Simone Elkeles’s romantic YA novels, Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction.  Even if you haven’t read the first book, read the review to Rules of Attraction – there’s nothing there that you wouldn’t have worked out all on your own, anyhow!


Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone ElkelesPerfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #1
Pages: 368
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary YA
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Also in this series: Chain Reaction

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.

Thoughts: If you’ve read The Bookette’s review of this book, you no doubt ran to the store and bought a copy.  Becky calls it her favourite book of all time – and as a general rule, I tend to agree with her.  But while I really enjoyed Perfect Chemistry – Elkeles’s writing is positively addictive – I did have quite a few problems with the plot.

Let’s start with what I did like.  I thought Brittany was a wonderful heroine.  At first, you’d think a cheerleader would not be a character you could identify with – but Brittany’s love for her disabled sister was utterly endearing.  I also loved how Elkeles discussed the real-life misery of most teens.  Perfect Chemistry is filled with drugs, gang violence, teenage drinking and a fair bit of barely-suitable sex.  Perhaps not what you want all teens reading, but that’s real life for you.  It isn’t pretty and it sure isn’t fun – but you can believe it.

Elkeles also did a brilliant job portraying the Mexican-American community – especially the family-oriented values of a lot of latinos.  Alex does a lot of bad things out of duty and love to his family – and it felt real.

However, my main issues in Perfect Chemistry were with Alex.  He’s set up as this bad boy who secretly wants to be good – he is supposedly a brilliant student who only wants to go on to have a “normal” life.  Apparently, he can’t do just that out of fear of retribution from his gang.  Kinda understandable – especially if he’s protecting his family.

That’s page one.

But then he spends the rest of the book enjoying the trouble he stirs up.  Huh?  I thought his bet to seduce Britt positively degrading – but somehow we were supposed to think he was doing it against his will.  If he had started out a thug and then changed, his character would have made more sense (read my review of Rules of Attraction for a longer rant on the matter).  Instead, all I wanted to do was slap him up the side of the head for 3/4 of the book.  Honestly.

Bottom line? Even though I thought Perfect Chemistry was a fun, addictive read – it won’t be on my favourites pile.  Rules of Attraction, on the other hand…


Double Review: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction by Simone ElkelesRules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #2
Published by Simon & Schuster, Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary YA
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Also in this series: Chain Reaction

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.

Two rather superficial notes:

  1. The trailer to this book is absolutely fantastic.  I don’t usually like book trailers, but this one made me rush out and get PC so that I could read the seqeul.  It’s that good.  Watch it!
  2. The scene on the fantabulous cover?  It is actually in the book.  *dies*  ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:  Rules of Attraction is bloody brilliant.  I stayed up to 7am to finish this book – and I don’t regret a single minute of my missed sleep.  It had everything I loved from Perfect Chemistry, only with leading characters that I not only liked – I loved.

Let’s start with Carlos.  When we are introduced to Carlos, he is exactly what he looks like: a thug.  He’s accepted that that is all anyone will ever see him as – a drug runner and a Very. Bad. Man. – and decided he might as well roll with it.  In his mind, his brother is delusional to think he could ever be free from the prejudice – so why should he bother trying.  That he’s stuck living in his brother’s apple-pie world?  Not something Carlos is happy about.

But he can’t fool us.  You see, we saw kiddie!Carlos in Perfect Chemistry – so, deep down?  We know he has the potential to be a good guy.  If he can just allow himself to see that, we’d be home free.  (Not to mention the fact that Carlos at his worst was still a nicer guy than badboy!Alex.  But, never mind.)

Watching Carlos accept that he can change – and that he wants to change – was fantastic to read.  He has the advantage of some kick-ass back up who helped him break away from gang violence.  Although his fight against the baddies was easier than Alex’s, his emotional struggle was a hell of a lot harder.  And watching a character on the road to redemption?  A hell of a lot better than watching some guy (*cough* Alex *cough*) who knows the right path but is too much of a coward to go down it.

Ok, that was harsh and I don’t quite mean that – but you get my point.

And then there is Kiara.  Oh, Kiara. *hugs*  I absolutely loved Kiara – she’s a such fantastic character.  She makes salads with spinach, has a gay BFF, loves to go hiking and only buys organic meat.  She’s even had proper parenting – the type with open and frank discussions about sex and drugs and whatnot.   In other words, Kiara would be my best friend if she actually – ya know – existed.  Of course, Kiara’s not perfect.  She has some serious confidence issues and a terrible stutter – all of which made me love her more.

Anyhow, Carlos and Kiara made sense together in a way so few pairings do.  Unlike Brittany and Alex, who were compatible because they were both caretakers as older siblings – Kiara and Carlos manage to be together without all that emotional angst.  She softens his edges, and he gives her courage – they are healthy couple and it’s fantastic to read.

Bottom line?  Rules of Attraction made me a believer.  A believer in true love, people’s ability to really change, and ability of cookies to unite the world in songs of love and joy and happiness and… where was I?  Oh yeah.

The third and final book in the trilogy will focus on Carlos and Alex’s brother Luis. Instead of a bad boy-good girl romance, it Luis will fall for a bad girl. Kinda awesome, huh? Comes out in 2011.

Review: Old Magic by Marianne Curley

Review: Old Magic by Marianne CurleyOld Magic by Marianne Curley
Published by Bloomsbury on 2012-09-13
Pages: 320
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Jarrod Thornton is mesmerizing, but Kate Warren doesn't know why.

The moment the new guy walks into the room, Kate senses something strange and intense about him. Something supernatural. Her instincts are proven correct a few minutes later when, bullied by his classmates, Jarrod unknowingly conjures up a freak thunderstorm inside their classroom.

Jarrod doesn't believe in the paranormal. When Kate tries to convince him that he has extraordinary powers that need to be harnessed, he only puts up with her "hocus pocus" notions because he finds her captivating. However, the dangerous, uncontrolled strengthening of his gift finally convinces Jarrod that he must take Kate's theories seriously. Together, they embark on a remarkable journey—one which will unravel the mystery that has haunted Jarrod's family for generations and pit the teens against immense forces in a battle to undo the past and reshape the future.

Spoiler Alert: This review has a few in it – but they are basically the facts that I wish someone had told me about before I started reading.

Thoughts: Old Magic is really damn hard to review. Because although it had a lot of elements in it that were enjoyable, it was ultimately a let down.

The main character Kate and Jarrod were relatively enjoyable, but not all that well developed. In fact, Jarrod’s main character trait was his extraordinary cowardice. Sure, that was entertaining and believable for about 100 pages – but after a while I wanted to slam his head into something hard. Because of his utter lack of spine, I found Kate’s attraction to him rather peculiar.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the first half of the novel. It is set in a sleepy town surrounded by woodlands. The atmosphere was rather dark and magical – reminding me of Need and Shiver in many parts. But then, half way through the book Kate and Jarrod time-travel back 1000 years.

Er, what? No! Take me back to that mysterious little town!

That was pretty much my only thought for the rest of the book. Curley introduces us to a dozen new characters, some rather over-the-top villains and some rather drawn-out plot. I don’t really have a problem with time-travelling in books – I just would rather it be the sole focus of the novel. Instead, I felt like I had been tossed into the poorly made sequel to the first half of the book.  One where they had to recast the leads because the script was so bad…

Bottom line? Curley is a very believable writer. And while I was disappointed with Old Magic, I shall be picking up some of her other books in the near future.

Review: The Line by Teri Hall

Review: The Line by Teri HallThe Line by Teri Hall
Series: The Line #1
Published by Dial
Pages: 220
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Thoughts: The Line is an odd book. It has a universe with real potential, filled with political, social and (perhaps) magical intrigue. There’s no zombie apocalypse, but something peculiar sure is going on.

But The Line also has some rather significant problems.

For starters, the writing just wasn’t that great. I had to reread chunks of text just to work out what was supposed to be going on. As for the story, it featured a lot of telling and little showing. The characters were little more than plot devices – albeit a very interesting plot. Without exception, I found them extremely one-dimensional and often outright illogical. View Spoiler »

But despite my rather take-it-or-leave-it opinion of the characters, I enjoyed the politics enough to continue reading. Luckily, Hall dials up the tension for the last 1/4 of the novel. The action started rolling, whole new mysteries were presented, and the characters started seeming less like plot devices – I actually wanted to find out what happened next!

And then it was over, and I went back to being rather blasé about the whole thing.

Bottom line?  Not the best book, but it is set in a fascinating universe. Hall’s writing is less than stellar, but I genuinely believe it will improve with her next novel.

Cover Note:  This book is gorgeous and has a relevant cover. Honest!  That beautiful greenhouse on the cover? It actually exists in the novel. Hell, if you need reason to get this book after reading my review: Get it for the cover!

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. Crow

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. CrowBetrayals by Lilith St. Crow
Series: Strange Angels #2
Published by Quercus Books, Razorbill
Pages: 308
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Strange Angels

Poor Dru Anderson. Her parents are long gone, her best friend is a werewolf, and she’s just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn’t entirely human. (So what else is new?)

Now Dru is stuck at a secret New England School for other teens like her, and there’s a big problem— she’s the only girl in the place. A school full of cute boys wouldn’t be so bad, but Dru’s killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead. And with all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide. . .

Can Dru survive long enough to find out who has betrayed her trust — and maybe even her heart?

Thoughts: I have such mixed feelings about the Strange Angels series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the books. Dru is probably the most depressing teenager ever, but her stubbornness and strength are really inspiring. I love how she is still grieving her father’s death from the first book – and her mother’s death as a child. I love the universe, filled with werewolves, dhampirs and vampires constantly at each other’s throats.

St. Crow’s universe is violent and gothic, and utterly immersive. I read this book in a single day – I just couldn’t put it down.  We learn so much more about the dangers Dru is facing – from enemies she didn’t even know she had. We also find out a lot more about her troubling new powers, how Graves is dealing with his new transformation and we get a bit of Christophe’s fascinating background.

But I have some trouble with the love triangle. When it comes to the whole Graves/Dru/Christophe thing, I have a feeling that I’m on the losing side of the love triangle a.k.a. the “I don’t want to see Dru with either of them” side.

Okay, sure, if I had to choose: Team Christophe all the way. But that’s because I find him hot – seriously hot – and not because I think he is right for Dru. As for Graves, I really have trouble seeing him as anything more than just a friend. A totally awesome friend, but just a friend.

Unfortunately the non-epic romance and the shortage of Christophe meant Betrayals lost the edge that Strange Angels had. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to read Jealousy (which has an epically terrible cover) and hope to get some bloody answers in it!

Bottom line? Filled with supernatural violence, a grieving teen, and a serious ammount of political intrigue – Betrayals is a great book. And hopefully you’ll find yourself choosing sides in the romance – I’m sure the book is more enjoyable when you aren’t trying to fasten a chastity belt onto the heroine.

Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Review: Frostbite by Richelle MeadFrostbite by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #2
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Vampire Academy, Blood Promise

It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians--including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if handto- hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks....This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...

Thoughts: Frostbite is a fantastic follow-up to Vampire Academy. The second book in a series is usually filled with flaws, but not in Mead’s case.  Action-packed, and emotionally gut-wrenching, this series is a definite must for YA and Vampire fans.

Rose does not have the ideal life by a long shot. Her gender and genetics give her limited options in the vampire world. Rose can’t be with the man she loves without sacrificing her best-friend, and even if she makes the “correct” choice she won’t ever have anyone of her own to love. It’s all very depressing, but she does the very best to make the most of bad circumstances.

Rose really matures in Frostbite, but not by choice. After the trauma she is put through in this book leaves her no choice but to make the “grown-up” decisions. In a way, I miss the more naive Rose from the first book, the one who looked forward to being an adult and fighting the Strigoi. Watching Rose lose that optimism was terribly tragic.

Wow, I have made this sound like the most miserable book in history. READ IT ANYWAYS. What I love about Mead is that she never introduces her characters fully formed – they always have plenty of room to develop. And watching that process? Heartbreakingly brilliant.

In retrospect, I am amazed how much Mead fit into such a small book. Compared to the rest of the Vampire Academy series, Frostbite is a sliver of a book. But so damn much happens in it! Mead deals with the epic Dimitri/Rose tragedy, Rose’s addiction to being bitten, Lissa’s ever worsening condition, the introduction of Rose’s mother, and a whole new (vaguely Chuck Bass-like) character. It’s actually quite impressive.

Bottom line? The Vampire Academy series just keeps getting better. Mead actually seems to have a plan for these characters, and I really can’t wait to see how it ends!

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