Friday, September 5, 2014

Maddy's Review: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Length: 357 pages
Original Publishing Date: December 23rd, 2008
Series: Perfect Chemistry #1
Where I got it: Borrowed from Audrey
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.
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.

Main characters: 3/5

Even though Brittany and Alex came from two different situations which I don’t have anything in common with, they were very sympathetic characters, and they seemed very real. I liked how they were both hiding behind stereotypes that other people wanted them to be, but they were aware of who they were. At times they could be incredibly frustrating, especially Alex, who would be cute and romantic one second, and then he would be completely thick-headed the next. Their connection felt real, and it did seem like their differences could be overcome so they could fall in love. However, I did think that Alex’s behavior surrounding “the bet” became uncharacteristic at the end. It seems a little strange that someone so in love with someone could disregard them so completely, even while he stuck close to his family.

Secondary characters: 2/5

I wish the secondary characters like Isabel, Paco, Shelley, and all of Brittany’s friends had more of the book dedicated to them. I don’t want to criticize a book for what it didn’t do, but I think that in a book about being more than your stereotype or what everyone expects you to be, it would have been interesting to see what their backstories were. They also had a lot of plotlines that felt like they were started but never really finished, especially with Isabel and Paco. I know this is part of a trilogy and that they might be expanded upon in later books, but I wish it could have happened in this book. I thought Shelley’s storyline was wrapped up too neatly, especially for the amount of time that Brittany spent worrying about her. I wish even the teachers could have been a bit more fleshed-out. I think this book could have easily had another 200 pages and I’d still read it to learn more about these secondary characters.

Writing style: 3/5

I liked how there was a definite difference between Brittany and Alex’s point of views. Their alternating chapters felt like different enough voices that you could really tell the difference in their struggles. Some of the slang felt stilted, like the amount of times that teenagers would say “bod” as in “killer bod”. Other than that, it was very evocative writing that really made me care about these two characters.

Plot: 3/5 

The plot was a bit ridiculous at times, but the story was very enthralling. I was entertained from beginning to end, even if it was a bit cheesy. One thing that I just couldn’t get behind was how all of Alex and Brittany’s physical encounters were from Alex’s point of view. It was interesting to hear his side, but he made a lot of assumptions about Brittany, and it would have been interesting to hear her side of things. Sometimes it didn’t feel entirely consensual just because Brittany’s voice was shut out of those scenes. Anyway, again, I’m not trying to criticize this book on what it could have done, but Brittany’s voice in these scenes felt disturbingly absent.

Ending: 2/5

The ending was a little much for me. I really like cliffhanger endings, or at least endings that are a little ambiguous, or that end in the middle of the action. I felt like this was wrapped up a little too neatly for my tastes. I guess I like thinking about the fate of the characters after I’ve finished the book, but I felt like I couldn’t do that with how this book ended. I know I’ve defended the Harry Potter Epilogue to anyone who will listen, but this time I really understood the power of the epilogue in making something feel final. It was what I wanted to happen, in the end, but I wish there was a little left to the imagination.

Best scene: When Alex and Brittany go to a wedding

Reminded Me Of: A Lifetime movie

Positives: Brittany and Alex’s commonalities, Brittany and Shelley’s relationship, the accurate portrayal of high school cliques

The “Bet” plotline, the too-neat ending, the one-sided physical encounters

I like the minimalist style of the cover; although, I did take one look at it when Audrey lent it to me, and I asked if it was a drug book because the cover reminded me of “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. (It’s not. Kind of.)

An entertaining read that I wish would have been longer.

Rating:  4.8 / 10 (3 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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