Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Release Date: 2009

Category: Young Adult

Source: Bought in Waterstones

Paperback: 357 pages

Summary from Amazon:
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. Forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, Brittany finds herself having to protect everything she's worked so hard for - her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend and, most importantly, 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 the closer Alex and Brittany get to each other the more they realise that sometimes appearances can be deceptive and that you have to look beneath the surface to discover the truth.


I have put up reading this book for a while. I knew it was a hit and that everyone was raving about it, but I just thought that it wasn't for me: I'm not the kind of girl who likes this kind of story. Well, yet again, I am more than happy to say that I was wrong, that I have been most entirely swept away by this story and that I can't stop thinking how beautiful the world is with Brittany and Alex in it. This book has it all and I can't encourage you enough to go to your nearest bookshop and buy it.

Brittany and Alex are complete opposites living in the same city. She lives on the North side and has money, good grades, a popular boyfriend and the "right kind" of friends whereas Alex grew up on the South side, he has latino origins and is part of a gang. They meet by chance on the first day back to school for their senior year. And they can't seem to be able to let go of each other after that. It would be completely crazy, for both of them, to continue seeing each other and thinking about each other. But can they even stop?

The characters are all very deep and so believable that I wouldn't be surprised if the story was real and they really existed. I love the fact that on the outside, both are complete clichés: the blond "perfect" cheerleader and the badass gang member, and we realise with the alternate narrative (story told by both Brittany and Alex) that it is just a front. For both of them, being this perfect cliché is their only way to survive.
Brittany's struggle to be happy in her family is heart-breaking to read. Books with disabled characters are so scarce that you feel they actually don't exist in fiction. Brittany's sister Shelley is beautifully and sensitively portrayed. Brittany's interaction with Shelley and her fight not to let her parents put her in an institution is fascinating to read.
After his father's death, Alex had to enter a gang for his family to be protected. He sacrificed himself for his family. Looking at him from the outside and reading his thoughts inside his head is a journey you won't regret taking. 

The simplicity of the story and the depth of the characters aren't the only things you will fall for in this book. There are so many crucial issues described in it that it is also a book which will make you think. Appearance versus reality is one of them. When you compare the image of perfection Brittany's family has and how completely dysfunctional it is behind the scenes you can't help but be shocked. How many people have you considered "perfect" in your real life? How many, do you think, really are? I keep thinking about my favourite line in Jane Eyre "perfection is in the eye of the gazer". It had such an impact on me when I first read it that I haven't considered "perfection" as a reality ever since. Everyone is perfect and no one is. 
The socio-economical themes are really well described, as well as the cultural differences between Brittany and Alex. They weren't brought up the same way and it is interesting to see them learn about each other but also about another way of life. There are some parts in Spanish, and it felt real. As for the gang issue, it is a real problem in America today and it was fascinating to read about it.

The book is beautifully written, in a non-assuming kind of way, and you will most definitely be engrossed by the story. You will want to continue reading until the end and then you won't be able to stop thinking about it. Perfect Chemistry is a story that will grow on you and stay with you. It will break your heart and give you all you need to build it back up. The best contemporary love story I have read in years and a beautiful look at today's America.

Do not even think about missing it!

Thanks to the wonderful Becky @ The Bookette for falling in love with this book and making me fall in love with it too!


  1. Fab review Caroline! I loved this one & I'm so glad you enjoyed it too :o) I can't wait to read Rules of Attraction

  2. Beautiful review, Caroline. I know what you mean about thinking you weren't the type of reader who'd usually like this book - I think I was the same, but I really connected with it. What you've said about perceived perfection is really interesting. It's easy to forget that in life you don't get to see most of what makes a person who they are.

  3. @Sarah: Same, I want to read all her books!!

    @Lauren: It is definitely one of those books which will challenge your vision of things. And boy I love to be challenged!

  4. What a wonderful review. I've fallen in love with the book too now and I haven't even read it :-)

  5. Wonderful review! I found this a really moreish romance.

  6. I love reading PC reviews because a.I absolutely loved it!! and b.there hasn't been a negative one so far,and I've read a lot!
    Glad you liked it Caroline :)

  7. Im so glad you liked it i loved it to :) not many have captured a romance quite like theirs, he sure is hot stuff eh :D

  8. Woo hooo! Let's hear that again: WOO HOOO!
    LOVE this review. I feel you have given my favourite book an intellectual twist and I am humbled by your deep interpretation. There are no comments about Alex being a Mexican badass which is what my review was all about LOL.

    I have a little lump in my throat after reading your review. It was so heartfelt and passionate. Awww... you are just so lovely!

  9. Great review Caroline, I agree with Becky's comments and applaud your intellectual interpretation of the book. Personally, I just fancied the pants off Alex LOL. Glad you loved it, welcome to the club ;)