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.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.
I was not sure about what to expect from Perfect Chemistry. The front cover made me think it was a romance novel, and in a way it is. But, it goes much deeper than that. It's not a light read, but it's definitely a good one and it will have you wanting to stay up late to finish it. This is the first novel I've read by Simone Elkeles but I've got the next one on order. This is number one in a series of at least three.
Brittany Ellis is the definition of perfection-on the outside. Perfect hair, makeup, clothes, life. Or so everyone thinks. But on the inside she's one eggshell away from breaking down. There are so many things that could go wrong if anyone found out her secrets at home that she teeters on the edge constantly. Her perfect boyfriend is pressuring her for sex, but she suspects he did something over the summer and that's why she doesn't feel the connection to him anymore. Her parents are emotionally distant, her father treating the house more like a "hotel than a home" as she says and her mother constantly blaming her if things aren't perfect. I liked Brittany. She had a facade she put on at school, but never trusted anyone. Home was far from perfect. Her mother was always on the edge of breaking down and avoided home like the plague. Her father was a workaholic and Brittany avoided a social life so she could rush home and take care of her mentally challenged sister. That was her big secret that the rest of the world didn't know. She had to be perfect because her sister wasn't. She tried so hard to make up for it that she was like a ticking time bomb. So, on the first day of school when she almost runs over the supposed leader of a gang she doesn't freak out, she stands up to him.
Alex is just trying to do the best for his family. He got "jumped" into the gang so his family would be protected after he saw his father shot to death in front of him at the age of six. His life is so different from Brittany's he thinks. He works in a garage and collects money for the actual leader of the gang. He tries to keep his younger brothers out of the gangs so they don't have to go through what he goes through. He, too, puts on a facade. He wears the tough guy one so that no one sees how smart he is and that he dreams of a better life, one he thinks he can never have. I liked Alex, even as he pushed Brittany away and his feelings aside. All he knew and had been taught was that he didn't deserve girls like Brittany. But deep down, he was the gang type. He had honor and potential, there just wasn't a way out. Not one where he could live.
Then Ms. Peterson pairs Brittany and Alex together in Chemistry for their senior project and everything changes. This is a realistic look at the lives of two high school kids with real problems and how they find common ground despite their differences. There were drugs and guns and a hysterical scene in a bathroom at a wedding. I don't know much about gangs. I know they're everywhere, but if the portrayal of what Alex had to endure is true, then I'm scared. No wonder they continue to grow instead of break apart.
I was satisfied with the ending and even more pleased with the first few chapters of the next book in the series Rules of Attraction. I enjoyed the plot line, which was never slow at all. In fact, it moved so quickly, I couldn't believe it was over. The chapters alternate between Brittany and Alex's point of view something I really like because we see the same thing from both characters and see how differently they see it. There is also such a difference in culture which I hope Simone Elkeles did her homework on. If you've never had a friend of dated someone from a different culture, it can be very difficult. I think she shows that really well in the novel. There is sex, drinking, drugs all the high school stuff so parents should think about that if they are buying. Kids, just be forewarned. And of course some language. A mature 14 and up I'd say.