Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry is a teen romance full of clichés, melodrama, an unrealistic denouement, and a completely over the top epilogue. And I freaking loved it. Ate it up with a spoon like it was an ice cream sundae.
I was initially wary because Perfect Chemistry utilizes the same alternating narrators format as Leaving Paradise, this time switching between Alex, Hot Latino Tough Guy Gangbanger (with a brain), and Brittany, Popular Perfect Blond Rich Girl (with a secret). Forced to become partners for the entire year in their chemistry class, Alex and Brittany start to see each other past the rumors and stereotypes and façades they’ve erected. Do I need to spell out what happens next?
In any case, Alex’s chapters were…better than Caleb’s in Leaving Paradise. Oh, there were still parts that had me shaking my head, wondering, “Dude, what kind of guy talks like this?” but it happened less often than Leaving Paradise. As for the rest of the book, for a story that’s supposedly about two teens who learn to see past stereotypes, most of the secondary characters were stereotypical. The plot points alternated between the ridiculous and the predictable, and the epilogue ranks right up there with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as my least favorite epilogues of all time.
And yet, I was totally sucked into the story. Elkeles had me hooked and I have no idea how she did it. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I think Elkeles does emotion well, despite (or is it because of?) all the melodrama. Ultimately, though, there’s just something about her writing that that makes me need to keep reading, regardless of all the problems I may have with the book, though I cannot identify what that something is. I had to finish the book, had to find out if Alex and Brittany would end up together.*
There’s a lot of crude language in this book—I did mention Alex is in a gang, yes?—and, well, let’s just say this is definitely a romance for more mature teens. It won’t change anyone’s mind about romances, by which I mean girls looking for a romance will adore it and those with less patience for its bad boy/good girl setup and occassionally unrealistically (there’s that word again) sentimental dialogue, not to mention the way it romanticizes the bad boy and gives false hope about the possibilities of reforming them, won’t. If you don’t think much of romances to begin with, this is definitely not the book I’d recommend to change your mind. I have a hard time picturing this one in school libraries, and I think it will be one of those books readers either love or hate, especially judging by the other reviews I’ve read, at Teen Book Review and Semicolon (warning: spoilers!).
Perfect Chemistry will be published on December 23.
* Can I call this Diana Palmer for the high school set even though I utterly failed in my attempt to read a Diana Palmer book? Just based on this statement about a Palmer book: “it was crazy and insane and it made no sense and yet I still loved it”?