Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
You may recall that when I reviewed Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry, as much as I loved it, I spent most of my review criticizing various aspects of the book. Well, I’m going to do it again with it’s sequel, Rules of Attraction (can I still call it a sequel if the protagonists from the first book are only secondary characters this time around?).
For those who haven’t read Perfect Chemistry, it’s about (quoting from my review here) “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?”
Anyway, back to Rules of Attraction. It doesn’t quite live up to the melodramatic awesomeness that is Perfect Chemistry. Mostly because Perfect Chemistry, whatever other faults it may have, is genuinely fraught with tension. Not just in terms of the, um, chemistry between Alex and Brittany, but also of the will-Alex-get-out-of-the-gang? and will-there-be-an-HEA? variety. I didn’t feel the same sense of urgency with Rules of Attraction. Despite this, I was not disappointed AT ALL by Rules of Attraction.
You don’t need to have read Perfect Chemistry prior to reading Rules of Attraction, but the latter works largely because it retains many of the elements that made Perfect Chemistry so enjoyable. Alternating first-person narration? Check. Bad boy/good girl dynamic? Check. Some hot romance? Check. Oh no, a gang might come in the way of the couple’s happiness? Check. Completely over the top epilogue that I actually found way more annoying than anything else? Check.
The Hot Latino Tough Guy Gangbanger half of Rules of Attraction is Carlos, one of Alex’s younger brothers. Carlos moves to Boulder, Colorado to finish high school, and, not long after his arrival, gets into trouble and is forced to move in with one of Alex’s former college professors. Surprise! The college professor has a daughter, Kiara, who is THE SAME AGE as Carlos, and she just so happens to go the same high school! What a coincidence. (I don’t know what it is about Elkeles’ books, but they make me snarky when I review them. Sorry.)
The White Girl role is filled by Kiara, who, unlike Brittany, is not popular and pretty much has a perfect home life (not that there’s anything wrong with this last part. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing more YA novels with happy home lives and teens who get along with their caring parents). Going to school together and living under the same roof, Kiara and Carlos get to know the real person… Wait, I think I’m repeating myself again. Kiara doesn’t have much in the way of problems or issues in her life. This could have made her chapters boring, but it’s a credit to Elkeles that they’re not. Kiara’s likable enough and Carlos’ problems big enough that the pace and energy of the story don’t flag regardless of who is narrating.
With short chapters, a high-stakes conflict, some humor and heat (read: for older teens!), Rules of Attraction is a fast, fun read. There’s also a decent number of appearances by Alex and Brittany, which only adds to the appeal of this book among the many fans of Perfect Chemistry. Rules of Attraction is not a particularly deep read, but it was entertaining and enjoyable and everything I was hoping it would be.
Except for the epilogue.
Rules of Attraction will be published April 13, 2010.
Book source: ARC from publisher.