Perfect Chemistry is the story of love against all odds and across a deep cultural divide. The South side of this Chicago town is home to economically poor Latino families who are sworn into gangs for their own protection. It is a case of be part of gang violence or risk being subjected to it. While families on the North side are white, rich and prosperous, they are maintaining their own version of false freedom. At Fairfield High School these two cultures are on a path to a nuclear collison as students from either side can't see past their socio-economic and cultural differences to the truth underneath.
Brittany Ellis is our leading lady and it is the first day of the Senior year. From the outside, she is the perfect white girl, captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the high school stud, the popularity queen and about to decide her future college. On the inside she is struggling to maintain control. She is living on the edge of her mother's mental health issues, her father's absence because of work and her sister's disability which is kept hidden from the people around them. Brittany uses her spotlight as a way to control her life and show the image of teen perfection to the rest of the world.
Alejandro Fuentes is our leading man. Senior year is very different experience for him. It signifies his last chance to prove he could be something even though he has no intention of using it. He is sworn into the Latino Blood to protect his family. He has to take this role to prevent the same fate happening to his brothers. Outside school his life is one of brutality, violence, crime and a culture of gang loyalty. He maintains his soul - for want of a better word - by compartmentalising the violence he takes part in. Alex may wear his bandanna like it is a badge of honour and a signal for respect but deep down he fears the inevitable future that the gang will bring him. It is enough to make your heart break just thinking about it.
The first day of school sees Alex and Brittany forced to be chemistry partners and here our story really ignites as their two cultures hit head on. Sparks fly as they both react to being partnered with someone who has the potential to ruin their precious portrayl of control. In the course of the book both are forced to face the truth about themselves and the lies they've been living. Perfect Chemistry is a novel of complex elements. It explores the concept of appearances and deception, of truth and lies, of innocence and betrayal, of friendship and most strikingly love.
But it is more than all of this in a way I can't describe. Perhaps it is Alex's identity as a boy with the reponsibilities of man? Perhaps it is Brittany's tender relationship with her sister in a family she feels so pressured by? Perhaps it is the constant challenge that Alex and Brittany present each other that makes it such a gripping, addictive read? This book took hold of me so much so that I read it twice in two days. If I didn't think it would effect my sanity, I would read it every day until the end of time. Why? Because Perfect Chemistry is a novel to obsess about. It is a book that you should drop everything for. It made me joyous and amused; it moved me to tears. I honestly can't think of a better way to say this. Perfect Chemistry is the most romantic love story that I have ever read. It is official. My heart is like an Easter egg left out in the sun. This book has turned me to molten chocolate. I'm completely in love with it.
An annoucement by The Bookette:
Okay, so I tried to write a really objective review of Perfect Chemistry but now I'm going to be the truest version of myself and share with you my joy because I have been waiting 27 years to find my favourite book in the whole world and I just did. I am absolutely and completely obsessed by this book. I just want to read it again and again. I'm not sure that is good for a person's mental health or her TBR pile though so I am going to try to read something else. Any recommendations? What else can melt your heart like this? Keep you up all night thinking about the character dialogue? Make you lose your appetite? Make you wish you could start it again from the beginning and forget that you know what happens? Oh man, I have it bad.
Can you guess who is going to get the Character Connection treatment on Thursday? So if you really want to know why you should read this book, you should stop by then and check it out.
My undying gratitude goes to Simon & Schuster UK for asking me to review Perfect Chemistry. I love you guys.