Perfect Chemistry is neither new nor unknown to students—and even though those are the two reasons I usually review books, I wanted to find out about this novel because it’s wildly popular at Chaffey High. I thought I might ‘sell’ it at Colony. Since it’s not on my summer reading list, I tried to get my son to have a go at it and then tell me about it, but he just said, “Is this a parody?” and that was it for him.
Now that I’ve read it, I know exactly why he made that comment. The characters are pretty one-dimensional. Super popular pom-pom girl Brittany Ellis dates the super popular star football player. Alex Fuentes, a Mexican gang member can’t find his way out of his life—one he’s only chosen into order to protect his family from the Latino Bloods. Brittany’s mom is utterly superficial, wants Brittany to be perfect in order to make up for the fact that Brittany’s sister, Shelley, has cerebral palsy and is also mentally slow. Her dad is pretty much absent, always at work, making lots of money. Alex’s mom is a loving, overprotective stereotype of the Hispanic mama. Brittany’s friends are pretty much shallow, and Alex’s friends are pretty much gang bangers.
Brittany and Alex fall for one another when they are forced to be partners in chemistry class—a subject they are both good at when they aren’t too busy dealing with personal issues. Should Brit break up with her hot boyfriend—also in the same chem class—and go for Alex? Should Alex try to straighten out his life for Brit? Well, of course they should! If they do, they can strive for those things that really matter to them. Alex secretly wants to go to college. Brit is sick of being seen as half of the ‘golden couple’ on campus. She can become ‘real.’
So, yeah—it’s an old story, not told very well. BUT, let’s face it—if you like stories about star-crossed lovers, if you’d like to read a modern, suburban version of the Romeo and Juliet story, you are going to love this book. And it does deal with the choices teens have to make when life isn’t offering them what they want. Romance fans, this is your novel.