Author: Simone Elkeles
Release date: US April 2010
Genre: Romance, Teen Romance, YA
Target audience: 13+
Summary from Goodreads:
When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.
Rules of Attraction sees us in Colorado. Alex is at college, working part-time at a mechanics garage and of course still very much in love with Brittany. But this book is not centred around Alex. It is all about Carlos. He arrives in Colorado to stay with Alex after getting into trouble with a Mexican gang. Carlos has convinced himself that his only possible future involves gang life. He has a huge Fuentes ego and an attitude to match it. Is he as badass as Alex? It's hard to say. We know that he has been involved in drugs and if he makes one more error will find himself in juvenile detention. The beginning of the story sees Alex and Carlos at loggerheads. Alex wants to stop Carlos from repeating his mistakes. Carlos thinks those mistakes are inevitable and that everyone else expects them of him. The question is can he learn from them?
Kiara is very down to earth character and quite a tomboy. She is a model student but has to work hard for her marks. She enjoys the outdoor life and happens to love working on her car. But most importantly she has a very competitive nature. She knows Alex because he helps her out with getting parts for her car and fixing it up. Kiara volunteers to help Carlos settle in when he starts at her school. Carlos does not appreciate having a baby-sitter who has been organised for him by his brother. From their first day together, Carlos and Kiara start a game of one-upmanship. Neither wants to lose face and so the challenges get increasingly interesting as the weeks go by.
Of course there is a natural chemistry between them. Carlos is truly a Mexican heart-throb and Kiara is the picture of innocence and unmanufactured beauty. She doesn't fall for any of Carlos's tough guy attitude and his wise guy remarks. Kiara has a stutter which saps her self-confidence. It is something that she is working on. I love that Kiara is a do-er. She doesn't wait around to be trampled on.
Through the dual narrative we get to see the vulnerable side of Carlos. He is very aware of why he doesn't want to get close to people. He also resents that fact that he was forced to leave Chicago and Destiny and return to Mexico. In his past Destiny was the only thing preventing him from taking those steps to get sworn in to a gang. Back in Mexico there is nothing to stop him following that path. He felt a responsibility to protect his family. When he arrives in Colorado complete with gang tattoos, his life is again dictated by his older brother. Carlos does not do rules or listening to authority figures.
Carlos and Kiara can't resist the attraction between them. They come together despite the reasons they both think they should be apart. There is a sweet tenderness to their relationship when they both let their guard down but I certainly thought the sparks didn't ignite as much as they did between Alex and Brittany. In the end it was still a great romantic story. The obstacles they face are more internal than external. Carlos has to get over his prejudices and misconceptions about white Americans. Kiara has to develop her self-confidence and conquer her own body-image. I did love this story. There were many moments when I squealed! There were moments when I thought my eye-balls would pop out. Carlos has a very hmmm... interesting way of describing certain parts of his manhood. Overall, for me it didn't quite reach the Perfect Chemistry benchmark but it was still completely engrossing, very racy and ultimately heart-warming. Read it!