Thursday, June 7, 2012

E-reading: Book Review of #1 Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Name of Book: Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles

ISBN: 0802798225

Publisher: Walker Books for young readers

Part of a Series: Perfect chemistry trilogy

Type of book:  young adult, Mexican male/white female, perfection, wrong side of tracks, interracial relationship

Year it was published: 2008

Summary:

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. She's forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for: her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and 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 soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

Characters:

The characters, both minor and major are well fleshed out and given distinct personalities. I pretty much liked them all; the "bad" boy Alex who isn't a bad boy after all, Brittany the teenager who's afraid of human frailties and people's judgment, Alex's friend Paco, a gentle and funny soul, as well as the jerk Colin, Brittany's boyfriend who strikes me as incredibly shallow and undesirable. Yes, I also liked Brittany's sister Shelley and wished for a happy for her. I would have wanted more for the families to be fleshed out, that is to get to know Alex's brothers and mother more, as well as Brittany's parents. From Brittany's point of view, her family is flat and seems to be incredibly selfish. While Alex's family is opposite, I would have wanted to see more of the bonding moments between him and his brothers as well as his mother, or perhaps more memories of his dead father. Surely Alex could remember other memories besides the ones where his father was killed?

Theme:

Chemistry and love helps overcome everything

Plot:

First person narrative from both Alex and Brittany with alternating chapters, one from Brittany and another one from Alex. Sometimes the book struck me as a little too fairy talish, that is there literally is happily ever after, and it might have been nice if in the epilogue we could see updates about Isabel and other minor characters. I suppose I'm a strong realist, and a happy ending has to be earned and proved to me, instead of just slapped on. I understand that everyone wants and desires happy endings, but they have to fit in with the story. In epilogue I also would have liked to witness more of the life that Brittany and Alex have led.

Author Information:

(from simoneelkeles.net site)
Simone Elkeles is the NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of over seven teen romance novels. She has won various awards and recognition for her books, including the coveted RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for her book Perfect Chemistry and being named Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. Her funny way of looking at life and the world around her has an effect on the people she hangs out with. If you hear people laughing, you’ll probably find Simone not far away.

Simone has seven teen books in bookstores:

Perfect Chemistry
Rules of Attraction *** New York Times and USA Today Bestseller***
Chain Reaction coming Spring 2011

Leaving Paradise
Return to Paradise *** New York Times Bestseller****

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation
How to Ruin my Teenage Life
How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation

Simone has also been voted the Illinois Author of the Year by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English.

Simone went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and received her Bachelor’s of Science there in Psychology in 1992. She continued her education at Loyola University-Chicago where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Relations while working for a manufacturing company creating diversity programs for their employees.

She loves animals (she has two dogs – a labradoodle and a German Shepherd), kids (she also has two of those) and her family. In her spare time she’s the Hockey Mom for her kids hockey teams and is an active Girl Scout leader specially trained in outdoor education. She also spends time mentoring other teen and adult authors. (she also loves sushi, which you can probably tell by reading her books).

Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances.
Simone does inspirational talks at schools, libraries, and conferences. If you are interested in booking Simone for a speaking engagement, please contact her assistant Melissa at melissa@simoneelkeles.net.

Opinion:

The story of a guy meeting a girl from the wrong side has been told immemorial times, starting with Pyramis and Thisbe and even Paris and Helen all the way to Romeo and Juliet and then onto Westside Story. I doubted that this book would be boring, and reading it somehow reminded me of TV version of A West-side Story (In all honesty I hadn't read the play...) but the concept is as old as time itself. There is something that she breathes into the novel that kept me gripped and had me continue reading it. I enjoyed it a great deal, because the characters were very fleshed out, and the gang-life (if portrayed accurately) tended to be fascinating. I do wish that there would be continuation of Alex and Brittany and of how they will work out their relationship. I know that it won't be easy for either of them; for Brittany to sacrifice everything for Alex, and for Alex to provide for Brittany. I am curious if Brittany has made any other sacrifices for Alex. This is a dark novel with cussing and violence. There are hints of sex and of desires, but the author never wrote the physical descriptions into the story. Also a lot of it struck me as fairy-tale, and didn't really cause me to relate to the characters.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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