Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: B

Summary (from "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."

Review: The first line of the Barnes & Noble summary says this is a fresh, urban twist on the Romeo & Juliet tale, but that's only half right. It's urban, but not fresh. Some things were changed up, but only the tiniest bit, I (who hadn't read that summary before buying the book at Border's) didn't have to read beyond page 19 (the beginning of chapter 2) to know this was a re-telling of Romeo & Juliet. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for re-imaginging the classics to get kids to read and consider those eternal truths; I just think it can be done a little bit more creatively than this.

The star-crossed lovers was so obvious that it wasn't even any work to figure out what was going to happen. I think Elkeles could have made it a little more subtle and have enhanced the story-telling. One simple idea would have been to make the two lovers to come from the same side of the "tracks" but have some other smaller difference and show how external forces shape a relationship. Also, that could have been really interesting to see how a Latino gang member and his Latina girlfriend (who's not in the gang, but still lives in that culture) have differing views of said culture. Maybe that's just me, maybe I'm one of those weird readers who wants to have to work just a little bit for my story.

But still, I liked both Alex/Alejandro and Brittany; neither were too cookie-cutter and they made for interesting glimpses into life behind the sterotypes. Also, Elkeles did the alternating POV between Alex and Brittany, which I'm a total sucker for. Kudos to her.

I think I'll hang on to this and maybe give it one more glance before selling it at 1/2-Price Book Store.

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