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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Review: Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles
Release date: 1st April 2010 UK
Genre: Teen Romance
Target audience: 12+

Summary from the publisher's website:
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. Forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, Brittany finds herself having to protect everything she's worked so hard for - her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend and, most importantly, 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 the closer Alex and Brittany get to each other the more they realise that sometimes appearances can be deceptive and that you have to look beneath the surface to discover the truth.

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.


Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Wow, talk about an incredible review! :D I can tell you were completely blown away by this book and all these glowing reviews I'm seeing all over the place really make me want to read the book, even though it doesn't really sound like my cup of tea for some reason! But whoa, what a review! I love it when books have such an effect on people - it's pretty much how I felt after reading The Catcher in the Rye, Wintergirls or We Need to Talk about Kevin - some books just change your life and it's a great feeling! :D

Luisa at Chicklish said...

Wow, it's wonderful to read about how much you loved it! Thanks for this review.

Becky said...

Bookalicious - there are so many thing that I missed out. I should have told you guys about the split narrative and the authors amazing use of authentic Mexican nuances, damn it. I'm so kind of obsessed that I'm not thinking straight.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

Fantastic review, Becky! I really love this too and I'm literally dying for Rules of Attraction.

Book Crazy Jenn said...

AMAZING review - talk about love - first you NEED to read Rules of Attraction, I actually liked it BETTER than Perfect Chemistry - I think even though Elkeles is an amazing writer I think she grew even more and Rules is up another level - if that makes sense, it was amazing.

Then another book that had AMAZING dialogue, I think is Seers of Light - I swear I will recommend this one till I am blue/purple in the face, it's character dialogue driven, so 80% of it is dialogue - and at first I was worried I would not like it...but in the end - WOW...amazing story! :)

Amazing review! :)

Rhiana said...

I started last night, but only managed a few chapters while forcing my eyes open (3 hours sleep the night before meant this was a loosing battle)...what I did manage was fab though, can't wait to settle down to more later on after I've done the 'family' thing.

Becky said...

Okay Jenn. I am finding out about this Seers of Light book. Thanks for the recommendation.

Robby said...

I've really wanted to read this book the past few months. I'm so glad you reviewed it. :]

I Want To Read That said...

Great review - I love how much you obviously love it! I would recommend Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (I really loved it) and The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (has to be my favourite book ever - takes a little to get into it but I just looovvveed it!)

Christina/Book Addict said...

Oh WOW! What an awesome review, Becky! Definitely ordering it on Amazon. I love all the books you recommend so I am definitely putting this on on the top of my TBR pile! I love books that make you so obsessed with them and you can't stop thinking about them, etc. Thanks for the great review! Now that I am back, I can't wait to catch up on Twitter this week!

Kay said...

WOW. Talk about an amazing review! I have actually ordered the hardback copy of this book even though I haven't read a thing by Simone before. I was slightly anxious, but after reading this I am officially excited.

To hear that this is your favourite book ever? First off, it's very reassuring for me - but more importantly, it makes me very happy for you! Finding a book you can call your favourite is an amazing experience. I have come pretty close a couple of times, but I don't think I have it yet.

Is it weird to say congratulations?

Ah screw it, Congrats Becky!

Jo said...

What an absolutely amazing review! See, this is what I love about your blog. Everyone needs to read passionate reviews like this! I adored Perfect Chemistry, and I know exactly what you mean. I have Leaving Paradise by Simone on my TBR pile, which I can't wait to read, and I am unable to wait for Rules of Attraction's UK release, and so want to pre-order it, but it's now no longer available on either Amazon UK or the Book Depository! I'm so sad! Thank you for such a great review!

The only other books I have had such a reaction to is Twilight. I can't tell you how many times I have read that book, and it's sequels. Also the Belgariad series by David Eddings, which starts with Pawn of Prophecy. It's the series as a whole that I love, because I couldn't tell you how each book ends, it's just one big story for me. I absolutely adore it, it was the series that made me fall in love with reading, and I will always re-read this series throughout my life. High fantasy, by the way.

Shweta said...

Now that's a passionate review! I never had any doubts about the awesomeness of this book but to have YOU raving about it and reading it twice I know I want it and I want it this minute! I know you ll never part with your copy ;D so I need to find someone whom I can coax into giving me theirs.If all this fails, then Im off to Amazon!

prophecygirl said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. It's one of my all-time favourites!

Kath said...

Hey Becky,
Wow, great review. I coincidentally just picked this one up from the library yesterday. You're review definitely makes me want to drop everything and read it, but I admit I'm a little hesitant. I've taken a few gang classes at school and I admit it makes it hard for me to ever picture a gang member as romantic, I'll try and keep an open mind as I read it. =)

Lauren said...

This is such a brilliantly enthusiastic review - I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't already read this one, I'd be picking it up now! I think the fact that you'd call this your favourite book in the whole world is pretty impressive. I'm not sure I could truthfully say that about any book, although there's several that come close.

YellowBanana said...

Great review! I really want to read this now, especially since you love it so much- you read it twice in two days after all, so it must be amazing. Thanks for the review!

Becky said...

Sammee - Thanks for the recommendations. I've been hearing lots of good things about Going Too Far. I guess that will have to be another US import.

Christina - Hope you had a fab holiday. It is great to have you back. I missed you!
Kay - I totally feel like congratulations are in order. I have been waiting for this feeling for a long time.

Jo - Thanks that is such a lovely comment. I looked into Rules of Attraction too but it hasn't been released yet. Simone's website says April 27th and somewhere else it said May.
I know Twilight has created a similar hysteria and I really love it too. But it didn't break my heart like this. I guess the whole gang connection has a personal meaning for me. God - a year ago I could have been Mrs P. if you switch Science for research or English lessons. I am going to have to look into reading some David Eddings.

Shweta - I so wish I could share my book with you but you're right. I can't bare to part with it. Maybe you could ask for an ebook for review from S&S?

Jenny - Doesn't PC just rock?!

Kath - That's an interesting point. I think you'll have to read it and see. Good luck with your suspension of disbelief.

Lauren - I think when you meet the "one", you'll just know. It will cause you to lose all sight of normality. I feel like I'm going cold turkey right now because I haven't read it for about 20 hours.

YellowBanana - Hope you get yourself a copy. You won't be disappointed!

Dwayne said...

You make me want to read this over and over and over again! Oh Becky, I'm just about to claim Alex for myself - share? :)) I totally agreee to everything you said... Like I can ever not - it's just the sweetest story ever! <3 <3 <3

Sarah said...

I'm so glad you loved this one! I still can't stop thinking about this even weeks after I read it, I know it won't be long before I'm reading it again LOL. I can't wait for Rules of Attraction!!!

Maria the Bookworm said...

Wonderful review! I love Simone Elkeles books, though I've only read two. Perfect Chemistry is awesome, but while I was waiting for Rules of Attraction I found Leaving Paradise as well, which is amazing too. So now I'm stuck with waiting for two sequels :D

Leah said...

Great review! I absolutely LOVED this, too!

StephTheBookworm said...

I am in love with this book too. It got 5 stars from me as well. Isn't it just awesome?! It was above and beyond what I had hoped for. I am so glad you loved it too! It really is the best feeling ever to fall in love with a book.

Kris (Voracious YAppetite) said...

Becky, this review makes me think of your relatively recent post when you asked people to link to a review that they feel reflects them as bloggers. I will from now on think of this review when I think of you! I haven't read this book yet but I've been planning to, although I had some reservations about it that you have officially cleared up. I hope that I will enjoy it as much as you have. :)

Btw, the last book I read that really touched me and made me think of it days after I read it is Nothing by Janne Teller. My dad read my review and it even made him want to read it, and he's a tough sell! Totally different type of book but I'd love to read your thoughts on it if you ever read it.

Becky said...

Dwayne - LOL You are in the Alex zone too. Swoon...

Sarah - I need Rules of Attraction NOW!!!! *Smiles* I really cannot cope with waiting.

Maria - I ordered Leaving Paradise but it hasn't arrived yet!

Leah - You know it!!!

Steph - Love conquers all. *Sighs*

Kris - Yay! So glad me and Perfect Chemistry are now aligned in the Bloggy Solar System.
I just looked up your recommendation on Amazon. It isn't out here but it can be imported. There was no summary though so I'm going to have to search out your review.

Jo said...

RE Rules of Attraction - I know it's not out yet, I just wanted to pre-order it, but there are no more copies to pre-order from Amazon or The Book Depository! Shows how popular Perfect Chemistry is :)

Becky said...

Jo - no more for pre-order. Oh god! What are we going to do?! This is a desperat situation. Will they get more in stock?

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Oh my! Fan girly love! Love it! I'm so happy for you. There is nothing better than falling in love with a book.

Thank you for the review/recommendation.

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

I love your passionate reviews. I am dying to read this one too, finally ordered it last week, hoping it comes tomorrow :)

Not sure if you've read The Dark Divine yet but this was a favorite read of mine this year :)

brizmus said...

um, wow, I've read a few reviews of this book, but I didn't realize just how amazing it actually had the potential to be. You have convinced me - I will now read it.
Although I don't know when or how, as I just checked, and it doesn't seem to be available for the kindle.
Anyhow, thank you for such an AWESOME review!
It's been a very long time since I felt that way about a book. I really think the last time might have been Snow Flower and the Secret fan, but I know quite a few people have had really adverse reactions to that, so I don't know if it would be for you or not.

Janssen said...

I loved this book too. Just so so perfect :)

Mary (The Sweet Bookshelf) said...

OK, I HAVE to read this now! If it's an all time favorite, then I must!

The Book Bug said...

Okay its offical. You can write a fabulas review that makes me foam at the mouth and throw a fit to get my mother to take me to town and let me buy the darn book write now. All time fave, huh? I know that feeling. Kinda.