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Perfect Chemistry (A Perfect Chemistry Novel) Paperback – January 6, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up—Told in alternating narratives, Perfect Chemistry portrays a romance between two unlikely lab partners. Brittany is her Chicago high school's "golden girl" but few of her friends know that her parents are totally dysfunctional and that she is highly invested in caring for her physically and mentally disabled older sister. Alex is a member of the Latino Blood, but he wishes he could leave gang life and pursue a college career. The plot thickens as Alex accepts a bet from a friend that he cannot bed Brittany by Thanksgiving. Smoldering doesn't quite do justice to the romantic banter that sparks between them. As the story unfolds, Alex is incarcerated and later hospitalized. Raw language and Spanish phrases that Anglo readers might feel obligated to investigate further are peppered throughout. The pace picks up too quickly at the end, leaving readers wondering if they missed something as time that has previously been marked day by day begins to clip along in five-month increments. Overall though, this is a solid romance that's suitable for reluctant readers.—Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Tough guy Alex is primarily known by his classmates as a dangerous member of the Latino Bloods gang. He’s not exactly thrilled when Brittany Ellis, the school’s seemingly perfect beauty queen, is assigned as his lab partner—and the feeling is more than mutual. But Alex’s bravado works against him when he impulsively accepts a bet that he can get Brittany in the sack. The romance that follows will not surprise any reader, yet Elkeles gives it heart by constantly switching point of view from Alex to Brittany to provide dual running commentaries on their minute-by-minute insecurities and urges. Brittany’s controlling parents and sister with cerebral palsy are well drawn, but it is Elkeles’ rendition of Alex and his life that is particularly vivid. Sprinkling his speech with Spanish, his gruff but tender interactions with his family and friends feel completely genuine. An idealized epilogue drains away some of the book’s realism, but if the “romance” angle isn’t pushed too hard, this is a novel that could be embraced by male and female readers in equal measure. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Alex Fuentes is the most thoughtful and loving gang member you will ever meet. He pretends to be tough and mean but deep down he has a huge heart. He's in Latino Blood to keep his family safe, and younger brothers away from gangs. He never did anything for himself.
Throw them together in chemistry and force them to become partners, this happens:
"'Miss Ellis?" Mrs. Peterson says. 'It's your turn. Introduce Alex to the class.'
'This is Alejandro Fuentes. When he wasn't hanging out on street corners and harassing innocent people this summer, he toured the inside of jails around the city, if you know what I mean. His secret desire is to go to college and become a chemistry teacher, like you, Mrs. Peterson.'
Brittany flashes me a triumphant smile, thinking she's won this round. Guess again, gringa.
'This is Brittany Ellis,' I sat, all eyes now focused on me. 'This summer she went to the mall, bought new clothes so she could expand her wardrobe, and spent her daddy's money on plastic surgery to enhance her, ahem, assets. Her secret desire is to date a Mexicano before she graduates.'
Slowly, the two of them realize there is more depth to the both of them than they allow anyone to see, and that they are more alike than anyone else they know. Brittany brings out the goodness in Alex and together they try to fight the odds even though they are from different sides of the tracks.
Alex takes a bet that he could get into Brittany's pants before Halloween. That is what starts his pursuit to the perfect barbie who he thought was as shallow as a kiddie pool. He didn't want ot lose Julio, his motorcycle he built by himself. They then begin to break down each other's walls and experience new things.
Simone brings to life two wonderful characters. This book teaches people to not judge a person based on rumors and appearance. It was beautiful to watch two unlikely people fall head over heals for each other. I felt their love as if it were my own.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves YA contemporary, forbidden love stories, or books that bring awareness about youth gang members and trying to find where you belong.
The Spanish words laced with English words got a bit annoying, as it was repetitive, OMG repetitive throughout the book. Did I say repetitive? Author also repeated, again and again, the fact the main character Brittany is white, and Alex, is Latino. Throughout the novel, I found myself saying, like Joe Pesci, in My Cousin Vinny, addressing the judge, "I think I get the point."
What I did like is how the two met up in chemistry class, and found this to be believable.
The cystic fibrosis sister that Brittany cares for and wants to see living with them, not put into a care facility was also believable and heartfelt. Brittany's devotion and understanding of her sister's needs and their friendship was touching. I liked that the author took on a real issue and incorporated it into the story, with a happy ending regarding this issue.
What was a stretch for me to believe was Alex's gang membership, in that he is supposed to be this 'bad' boy, but he doesn't do drugs, he only sells them, or transports them? I don't really know, other than I think he was supposed to beat people up, or threaten them to make them pay up for drugs? The author really wants to get the point across that Alex does not do drugs, which makes me think the author added this to ensure her readers could trust that Brittany would wind up with someone who walks like a duck, looks like a duck, acts like a duck, but isn't a duck. He's a nice boy with morals, because he is smart, very smart. And his teacher knows this and wants to see him succeed. He has tats and he carries a gun, but no drugs makes him stand out from the gang. I don't know much about gang life, so I may be wrong in my assessment.
The reason Alex is in the gang in the first place, is because of his father, and he needs to follow in his father's footsteps to preserve the family, and his acceptance into the gang to secure his place is what the novel focuses on until the end. He's expected to take his father's place by doing a major drug deal that he supposedly can't refuse or bad things will happen to him and his family, his mother and brothers. Brittany catches wind of this and knows that she has to figure out a way to stop him from doing this deal. She gets the idea to seduce him, and she succeeds, and his best friend knowingly goes in his place, and gets shot and well....things don't end well, but we as the reader can be assured that Alex is safe and sound.
The parents were convenient players in the novel when needed here and there. As secondary characters, I treated them as such in my mind, and did not get very connected to them.
Brit is a virgin with a less than stellar boyfriend who presses her for sex. Alex assumes that she's been around. It's okay that he has been around, which the author reveals, as well as the repeated interest from the girl that keeps hanging all over him, trying to keep up their friends with benefits relationship.
There was a bet involved with Alex and his friends that he could get Brit to sleep with him before a certain time frame, and ultimately, he wins the bet. But this part of the novel seemed like the author liked this idea in the beginning of the novel, then the story went a different direction, and she had to keep remembering to add this bet into the storyline. It seemed out of place, and kind of an unnecessary part of the plot.
The divide of cliques on both sides was believable in some parts, but not consistent. Like one girl who knew Alex as a child, who was also a cheerleader with Brit, was in both worlds and accepted, and it seemed Brit was trying to earn her approval, which didn't make sense to me.
I am thankful to have added this book to my reading list as one I completed, but more than likely, I will not read the sequels.
The 23 year epilogue made me cringe to read because it was Alex and Brit's son, Paco, attending chemistry with the same teacher, being paired with a white girl, starting the process all over again.
This was supposed to be a novel about a cheerleader and a gang member, where she turns out to be a virgin, with a sister in need of round the clock care, and he was a non-wannabe gang member, who was forced into the life not by his choice, to make you know people aren't always what they seem at first glance, and I do believe the author did a good job of portraying a fictional story line, that was entertaining, and not too real, as to
be a downer, but one you did not have to look too hard to find was based on fiction, rather than real life.