Sunday, May 16, 2010

Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker & Company
Copyright: 2009
Genre: YA Romance

Although the concept of this book is almost worn out by this time - bad boy and rich girl thrown together and falling in love - I think that Simone Elkeles does a good job of portraying the dynamics of this relationship. By the end of the book, I was emotionally involved and interested in what finally happens between Alex and Brittany.

Brittany Ellis is from the "right" side of town and is the perfect "perfect girl." Alex Fuentes is from the wrong side of the tracks (literally) and is the perfect "bad boy." But both of these characters hide parts of themselves and maintain the facade that society expects them to have. When they are forced to be partners in chemistry class, and Alex's friend challenges him in a bet that he can't "seduce" Brittany, they find out each others' secrets and realize that they are not so different from each other. Amid family problems, gang problems, violence and distrust, a relationship blossoms between the two seemingly totally opposite "chemistry partners."

At the beginning of the story, both characters are very stereotypical, but I think that may have been intentional, to introduce stereotypes and then shatter them. They were shattered pretty early on into the story, as Brittany and Alex shared their thoughts. I liked that about the style of the book - the chapters alternate between Alex's and Brittany's points of view, both in first person and present tense. This gave insight into the situations from both Alex's and Brittany's perspectives, and revealed information about one while still creating a sense of confusion, betrayal, etc. for the other.

Most of the smaller characters were as well developed as the two main characters. Although most of them played no big roles in the actual story, they were believable and sounded real. I didn't think Brittany's mother sounded very real, but maybe there are mothers who think like that and I just don't know about them! I liked seeing the relationships between Brittany and her sister and between Alex and his brothers. Getting to see inside their families helped me to see them as multi-dimensional characters and added depth to the story.

I loved how the story ended. The last few scenes really tugged at my heartstrings. The choices Alex has to make, and what he ultimately does, ends up showing just how wrong his whole "tough guy" image was all along. Of course, in a book like this, the two main characters have to end up together, but the way they come back together after being apart is really touching and fits very well with their characters as they were shown throughout the book.

The one thing I would change is that I would have left off the epilogue. The last chapter closes the story of Alex and Brittany in such an emotional way that further explanation is unnecessary, and besides, the epilogue comes off sounding corny. I won't write here what happens, because I think the whole book itself is worth reading, I just think that the epilogue kills a little of the effect of the whole book.

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