Rummanah Aasi
 I was on a waiting list for about a month to read Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. During that time, I kept hearing great buzz about the book, which is being marketed as a modern day star-crossed lovers with an urban twist. When I hear the book was set in a Chicagoland suburb, I was intrigued and couldn't wait to read the book. Now that I finished it, I wish I didn't waste my time on it.

Description: Brittany and Alex are two polar opposites. Brittany is a North Sider who is wealthy and seemingly perfect. Alex Fuentes is a South Sider, Mexican American gangster. When the two meet as chemistry lab partners, sparks fly and they soon develop a relationship, which is disapproved by their family and friends.

Review: Let me preface this review by saying that I have no problem with reading a romance. I know that they are general conventions of the genre that require the reader to suspend disbelief and that the characters will have their happy ending. I absolutely fine with those requirements. So, why did I hate Perfect Chemistry so much? Well, it's mainly because of the characters and how the story is told. Perfect Chemistry is simply a modern retelling of the West Side Story with a happy ending. The plot is very predictable from the first page. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that the two main characters will initially hate each other, develop a strong attraction which they can't explain, fall in love, and then face a conflict that involves the gang life. I can overlook a simplified plot, but not the characters.
    Brittany, Alex, and the other characters are walking and talking stereotypes. Brittany is the beautiful, rich girl, who has a problem. Whereas Alex is a gangster who secretly is sensitive and smart.  I wanted to strangle both of them and knock some sense into them when they continue to play along with the stereotype instead of breaking them. I've heard arguments that the characters do, indeed, break their stereotypes in the book. It just takes them about 300 pages to do so and with a half heart. I don't think these characters really do change, but rather perpetuate the stereotypes.
   There are some serious issues that the book lightly brings up. There is no gang member that selects what he or she gets to do unless they are a leader. As for dating a gang member, there is not a single alarm that goes off in Brittany's parents. I believe in the power of love, but what I don't believe in is that getting out of gang is a simple process. I've known people like Brittany and Alex in real life and they would never have dated. The guys like Alex have wasted their talents either in jail, died, or have remained with their gangs.

  If you're not bothered by the stereotypes, dialogue filled with cliches, and a very syrupy epilogue in your romance, then this is the book for you but I think I'll pass.     

Rating: 1 star

Words of Caution: I would not recommend this book to anyone below 16 years old. There is strong and crude language throughout the book-both in English and in Spanish. Sex is discussed and occurs in the book. There is also gang violence, which includes beatings and shootings.

If you like this book, try: Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
2 Responses
  1. Melissa Says:

    Glad I'm not the only one who had a supremely strong negative reaction to the book. It's nice to not be alone. :-D

  2. I posted a question on the YALSA listserve about being the only one not liking the book and I guess I'm in the minority. A lot of the people tend to overlook the problems since it's a romance. I find it interesting that more people had a problem with "Twilight" in terms of an 'unhealthy relationship' and there's nothing of the sort with this book.

    I can't overlook the stereotypes. They were too jarring for me.

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