The sixteen-year-old me would have loved this book. Secretly.
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Brittany is a babe-alicious golden girl, queen of the school and captain of the pom squad, quarterback boyfriend included. Of course she’s white, of course she’s rich, and of course she’s blonde. Alex is the sexy Mexican gangster with a motorcycle and a heart of gold, who makes a She’s All That -style wager that he can score with his new Chemistry partner before homecoming. But wait! It turns out that Alex is smart and sensitive, Brittany is also smart and has actual problems, and they are both so devastatingly hot!
I mean, come on. You know how this book is going to end just by looking at the cover. That’s okay! The author makes enough interesting choices and efforts to add depth and dimension to the story that you won’t feel compelled to roll your eyes every page or hate yourself for reading it. This is a romance for teenagers, and it is essential to read it in that spirit. The author manages to make the stakes higher for both protagonists than a simple “will they, won’t they?”. They each have plot lines beyond the romance. The narrative works best in the moments of sexual tension between Brittany and Alex. I’m not gonna lie, it gets pretty hot. There is an effort to weave issues of class, culture, and social justice into the novel…and those are somewhat less successful. As a Northern Californian, it was pretty evident to me that Elkeles is not Hispanic just by her use of Spanglish in dialogue. It did not sound authentic, but I don’t think that will bother the audience for this book. Here’s what you need to know:
It’s a quick read. It’s fun. It’s sexy. It’s not a totally braindead plot, but the epilogue is seriously misguided.
Pick it up as an e-book, like I did, and conveniently avoid awkward questions on the bus: “What am I reading? Oh, a high school sex book with class-based complications”.