I hope all you lovely readers out there are doing well. Today I have a review of a novel I really enjoyed. I feel I need to add a disclaimer before continuing however. The publication information says For Young Readers. However, I would not classify this as YA. It feels more New Adult to me, so I would recommend this novel for teens 17+.
Summary from Goodreads
Paperback, 359 pages
Published December 23rd 2008
by Walker Books for Young ReadersISBN 0802798225 (ISBN13: 9780802798220)
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.
I'm not even sure where to start. I wasn't expecting this book to be about a bad boy who is in a gang. Or for the novel to deal with such issues as cultural stigmas so maturely. I think I was expecting this novel to have more a YA, sweet feel to it. But I'm really glad I was surprised because Perfect Chemistry has made its way on to my favourites shelves.
I'm going to start with the writing: Elkeles creates wonderful atmosphere in her novel. The first person narration of both Brittany and Alex really allows us to understand both of these characters intimately. Brittany's need to be control all of the time, needing to be perfect, to maintain a this persona, are brought to light as fears in a way that makes me very sympathetic towards her. Seeing and hearing Alex in his poor neighbourhood, being immersed in Mexican culture, helped to connect with him in a way I probably wouldn't have otherwise. The use of Spanish throughout the novel (most of which I was able to make out) created a cultural atmosphere that allowed me to understand Alex and the lifestyle of his friends and family a lot better.
Alex joined the Latino Blood because everyone on his side of the city, all the kids from a Mexican background, join the gang. His father was in the gang, his friends and cousins are. It's a way of life. A way of life that Alex doesn't particularly like, but he was jumped in and he stays loyal in order to protect his mother and two younger brothers. He knows first hand how dangerous this life is, but he has no choice. And honestly, what really struck me was the stigma of being Mexican, of being from the other side of the city, automatically turned him into a bad guy in everyone's books. He's singled out at school simply because he has a bad ass reputation, and was clearly an easy scapegoat. It's easier to blame the bad boy than look for the real culprit and Alex knows that. So, even though he works hard to make good grades, he knows that his future is the gang life, and not going off to university after high school. He's just hoping to keep his younger brothers out of the Blood so that they can have a better life than he does.
But when he meets Brittany, and the bet starts to turn into something real, Alex dares to defy the conventions by dating a snow girl. Brittany really can't understand the gang life, and Alex knows that. But he also sees that Brittany has been pretending to be someone she's not, that he's misunderstood her completely and starts to realize that he and Brittany are more alike than he ever thought. He challenges Brittany to be "real" and that in turn, forces him to challenge himself to want more than the gang life. He starts asking question that are best left unasked about his father's murder, and gets himself into serious trouble. But Alex is willing to endure it, to fight against the life he was raised to because he's daring to dream of something more with Brittany. This is a couple I loved together because Brittany does some serious growing throughout the novel. She starts to trust people, starts to stand up for herself, and challenges Alex to do the right thing. She's stubborn and mouthy at times, but very vulnerable and they just work together.
Perfect Chemistry acknowledges the dangers and the vicious cycle of the gang life. It's not the story of Danny Zuko and Sandra D, nor it is West Side Story. It's a lot more political and a lot more honest. The story will bleed into you and evoke unexpected thoughts and emotions; emotions that stay with you long after you've read the final page.
He kissed me as if he'd savor it for the rest of his life.
She's wearing a yellow bikini, leaving very little to the imagination. Does she realize she looks like a sunflower, ready to rain sunshine on all who look down upon her?
I want to know how to make this girl laugh. I want to know what makes her cry. I want to know what it feels like to have her look at me as if I’m her knight in shinning armor.
Opening yourself up to making mistakes and being vulnerable is what makes it beautiful and special with the person you love.
Somehow, being with Brittany brings something to my life that's missing, something ... right.
Mujer, you own my soul.
5 glittering stars