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Perfect Chemistry (review)
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Reviewed by
Elkeles, Simone Perfect Chemistry. Walker, 2009 [432p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-8027-9823-7$16.99 Paper ed. ISBN 978-0-8027-9822-0$9.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10

In their class and ethnicity-divided Chicago suburb, wealthy and beautiful blonde pom co-captain Brittany wants nothing to do with poverty-stricken, badass Latino Alex; all she wants is to keep up her perfect façade with her white football-playing boyfriend and prevent as many people as she can from finding out about her sister's cerebral palsy and her mother's chronic bitchiness. So, of course, Brittany and Alex become chemistry lab partners, and their sexual chemistry begins reacting as well. Before long, they realize that they are more alike than different in that they are both living a lie: Alex isn't nearly as tough as he fronts, and Brittany—well, Brittany is still perfect even if her family is not. These clichéd, caricatured portrayals are, of course, both the romantic draw and the literary drawback of the narrative: underneath Brittany's fake-perfect package is still a darn good package, and her dirty little secrets aren't particularly dirty—after all, there are far worse things than having a sister with a disability and status-conscious parents. Alex, the gangbanger with a heart of gold, really does have a good heart, as well as a smokin' hot bod, smoldering good looks, and rapier sharp intelligence—all in all, he's a guy worth crossing the tracks for. The narrative is full of soap opera-worthy melodrama and overblown angst as Brittany stands up to her family and Alex breaks free of his gang, and the happy ending, which flashes forward twenty-three years to the couple's idyllic future, is off the charts corny. Do I need to mention that teens with a taste for romance will eat this up like ice cream on a hot day?