Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2008
Genre: YA, Romance
Brittany Ellis is seen as the perfect girl, and she’s put a lot of work into maintaining that imagine. In reality, Brittany’s life is far from perfect. Her sister has cerebral palsy and Brittany feels like her parents put so much pressure on her to make up for her sister not being able to do so many things. Senior year is supposed to be the time of Brit’s life, but she finds herself partnered with Alex Fuentes, a dangerous gang member from the wrong side of town. Alex and Brittany despise each other, but they can’t help feeling the attraction between them. When Alex accepts a bet that he can sleep with Brittany before Thanksgiving, he tries to get to know her. As the two spend more time with each other, they learn to see past the facade they have each created. What started out as a bet for Alex has started to mean something, but how can he be with a girl like Brittany when his life is so dangerous? When the gang life that also claimed his father’s life might ruin Alex’s as well, he has to decide what he would really do for love.
Throughout February, Chapters and Indigo have been doing a display in the stores titled “Book Boyfriends,” which features books with desirable boys. I think the books are chosen through twitter. I was looking for a book to read for Valentine’s Day, and Perfect Chemistry was one of the books on the display. I had mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy reading it, but there were things that bothered me. I think everyone has heard this story before; forbidden romance, good girl falls for bad bay, boy accepts a bet not thinking he’s going to fall for girl, etc. It has a bit of Romeo and Juliet, Grease and She’s All That. And I was fine with that, because I knew it was going to have an unoriginal plot going in. Like the students at Fairfield, I judged Brittany and Alex from the start and was proven wrong; they were much more complex than they first seem. Alex is the smart mouthed bad boy with a good heart that he tries to hide. I have to admit I’m getting sick of boys in books being huge jerks at the beginning then turning out to be a girl's dream. I know Alex is a good person beneath everything, but I hated they way he acted at the beginning of the book. The way he treated Brittany was horrible, from harassing her to objectifying her. When Alex finds Brittany extremely drunk on the beach, he considers having sex with her to win the bet. In the end, he decides not to, since he’s drunk and high and wants to be at his best when he finally hooks up with Brittany. Seriously. Not because it would be wrong to take advantage of a girl, but because he’s drunk. He does say later that he doesn’t have sex with passed out girls, but the whole thing stopped me from ever completely warming to the guy. Another thing I didn’t understand about the book was Brittany hiding her sister from most of her friends. My mom works with students who have special needs, including cerebral palsy. Where I live, anyone can go to school until they’re 21, and some students do this so that they can meet people their own age and socialise. I really think Brittany’s sister would have benefited from going to school, and the way her family hid her inside made it seem like they were ashamed of her. Brittany does say she feared people teasing Shelley, but the whole thing was a bit bizarre to me, since it was very different from what I’m used to. At my school it would not have been a big deal for some one with cerebral palsy to be at school, and I like to think no one would have teased someone like Shelley. All of that aside, I soon became caught up in the story. The plot was well paced with an exciting climax. I found myself rooting for Alex and Brittany, especially when it felt like I was the only one on their side. The narration switches between Brittany and Alex, which sometimes doesn’t work very well when done by one author. Fortunately, Elkeles pulled it off. While I found myself rapped up in the story, the ending was a bit too cheesy for me, especially the epilogue. However, Perfect Chemistry is perfect for anyone who loves YA romance. If you like bad boys and a seemingly unlikely romance, then you will probably love this book.
“One of the things that makes me who I am is the loyalty I have to people I hold close to my heart.”