Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles Book Review

At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren’t exactly compatible elements. So when head cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, the results are bound to be explosive.Neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all — love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart? Travel to both sides of the tracks in a passionate love story about looking beneath the surface.

What can I say, Perfect Chemistry, is pretty perfect in my book! After reading Rules of Attraction, as well as the Perfect Chemistry synopsis, I expected it to be a bit more of the same. But it was wonderful!

A common theme in Simone Elkeles' novel's seems to be the blending of the north sides ('good') and south sides ('bad'), and the challenge that this exhibits. This was a very well crafted theme throughout the novel. 

Alex is overwhelmed with responsibility to his family, and also to the gang he's only joined to protect his family. From the first page I believed in his complex nature, his ability to become the gang-banger that everyone expected him to be, as well as the smart, loving, responsible teenager trying to make a way for his brothers. 

Brittany's character was met with a bit of chagrin before I started, as I expected her to fulfill her role as the blond cheerleader to a tee. And then I started reading, and from the very beginning, I felt the tension between the self she portrays in public, and the self she is at home, more specifically, for her sister, Shelley. She seems quite at her wit's end with pretending to be perfect. 

With Alex and Brittany coming together, you get their social/economic/cultural challenges. They were believably put off by the stereotypes that permeated in the misconceptions of each culture, and yet, were equally intrigued by each other's  differences. After a while, they desired to know what it took to walk in the others shoes, and this I found extremely intriguing! They could see beneath the facades that each felt an obligation to in public. Elkeles introduces well-rounded characters that you want to dig further into.

The problem of gang-relation comes to a head in this novel. It's very believable in Alex's tension with his Latino Blood affiliation. He showed loyalty, all the while showing a vulnerable fear of what certain higher ups could do to his family/friends. 

Elkeles writes in such a flowing, relatable way. For the most part, every character seemed fully developed from dialogue to mannerisms. The tone of the novel also took on a more mature nature than Rules of Attraction did, in my opinion. I appreciated this! She knows how to build wonderful tension, and craft such scenes in a wonderful way!

I fell in love with Alex, and at this point I now understand the allure of the Fuentes name! This love story was gutsy, hilarious, heart wrenching, and pretty spicy! As Alex and Brittany warmed up to each other, they showed such genuine vulnerability. I loved these facets of the novel! I finished it in one day! I finally get it, and will happily move forward with Chain Reaction!

I give Perfect Chemistry 5 out of 5 cups of Earl Grey! A pot, really!