VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Beautiful, wealthy Brittany is a popular diva, so when she and Alex, a tough Hispanic gang member, become chemistry partners uneasiness reigns. Defenses fall, however, revealing Brittany's fractured parents, her sister Shelley's severe cerebral palsy, and her struggle for perfection that is guilty atonement for being healthy. Alex is intelligent, kind, and longs for college; gang membership exempts his brothers' joining and promises their better future. They surreptitiously begin a relationship with Brittany dumping her diva crowd while demanding family counseling. Alex chooses the dangerous rite of leaving his gang and works to rebuild his shaky family. When Shelley enters a Colorado facility, Brittany accompanies her and enrolls in college as a chemistry major, but Alex arrives soon after with a proposal. The epilogue announces their groundbreaking Alzheimer's drug and portrays their son meeting his beloved in their former chemistry class. Alternately narrated by Brittany and Alex, this compelling story portrays complex teens whose manufactured personas hide personal problems. Their contradictory lives and reactions to each other's provide conflicts and character insights, but once their romance begins they and the narration unravel. The story becomes overlong and repetitive with the duo's edginess dissolving into contrivances and sappiness, full of convenient and largely improbable events. The sultry cover should attract many female readers but will keep mainly those enjoying star-crossed romances. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up
Told in alternating narratives, Perfect Chemistry portrays a romance between two unlikely lab partners. Brittany is her Chicago high school's "golden girl" but few of her friends know that her parents are totally dysfunctional and that she is highly invested in caring for her physically and mentally disabled older sister. Alex is a member of the Latino Blood, but he wishes he could leave gang life and pursue a college career. The plot thickens as Alex accepts a bet from a friend that he cannot bed Brittany by Thanksgiving. Smoldering doesn't quite do justice to the romantic banter that sparks between them. As the story unfolds, Alex is incarcerated and later hospitalized. Raw language and Spanish phrases that Anglo readers might feel obligated to investigate further are peppered throughout. The pace picks up too quickly at the end, leaving readers wondering if they missed something as time that has previously been marked day by day begins to clip along in five-month increments. Overall though, this is a solid romance that's suitable for reluctant readers.-Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
Sparks fly when cheerleading it-girl Brittany Ellis is paired with gang-banger bad-boy Alex Fuentes in chemistry lab. Soon enough, Brittany's snaky quarterback boyfriend dumps her, and her friends spread rumors that she and Alex are hooking up. Meanwhile, she and Alex wage their own battles at home. He longs to escape gang life, and she, the clutches of her overbearing mother. In a sense, they're right for each other: Neither fits the mold they were put in, so it feels natural when a fiery romance begins to brew. Elkeles pens plenty of tasteful, hot scenes-including one where Brittany loses her virginity to Alex-that keep the pages turning. The other elements come together as well, though they seem forced. Alex and his friends are not fully fleshed out, and their voices and dialogue definitely don't capture their characters or their experiences. Brittany's issues and dramas with her mother and her entourage come off like a groan-inducing after-school special. Still, as the title implies, the author definitely knows how to write romance, and that should help readers overlook some of the cheesier bits. (Fiction. YA)
Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books on Perfect Chemistry
Teens with a taste for romance will eat this up like ice cream on a hot day.