Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Brittany is starting her senior year of high school, and she is bound and determined to make this her best year yet, but it seems that her life hasn’t caught up with her ideals. First she gets stuck with the schools biggest trouble maker and gang member, Alex Fuentes, as a lab partner in Chemistry, but troubles at home with her sister have been increasing. Her parents seem to be as disconnected as ever. On top of all that, things with her boyfriend, Colin, just aren’t what they used to be. Is it him or her? And what is it about Alex that keeps her from thinking straight anyway
While the idea of taking characters who have an assumed life or personality and giving them depth has been done before, I really enjoyed Simone Elkeles’s version. Gang members are (and probably rightly so) considered dangerous and, like Alex, they are probably stereotyped as being trouble makers and slackers. Alex, however, had reasons for everything he did, and honestly did not enjoy being “that guy” that everyone was afraid of, despite the fact that he tried hard to portray that person outwardly. Likewise, while Brittany was the super popular, extremely rich cheerleader, she was far from the perfect person she made everyone believe that she was. I think, especially as teenagers, many people hide behind similar masks. Not to this extreme of course, but we have a version of ourselves that we let people see – and then we have the person we wish we were.
Another secondary storyline that I also loved about this story was the crossing of racial and class structure boundaries. This is another reality that even I remember from school. Clicks in High School are very popular, and can be divided based on anything; grades, musicians, race, class, etc. I liked how both Brittany and Alex at some point in this book were working toward crossing those clicks and boundaries and showing their classmates that their assumptions and ideas about other people weren’t necessarily founded on facts.
I do recommend this book for the reasons above, however I do caution – this book is defiantly meant for older “young adults,” and not teenagers or young teens by any stretch of the imagination.