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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Rating:
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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Rating:
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.

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