Summary: A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.
When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. 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.
My thoughts: I read this book because it was ranked the fifth on “Best Young Adult Realistic Novels” list on Goodreads. Sometimes this is not the way to go to find new books to read. Which totally applies in my case. I didn’t like this book. It’s about a rich girl, Brittany, which has some problems at home: a mother who constantly criticizes her and has trouble looking after Brittany’s disabled sister and a workaholic father I think. Yeah, the father doesn’t appear too much in the book. Anyway, Brittany falls in love with latino bad boy, gang banger (book description, not mine) Alex Fuentes who is very smart and the only reason he’s in a gang is to keep his family out of trouble. They are paired together for a chemistry project, hence the title which the author thought it was probably amazing. I thought: “Gee, can we get more clichés please?”
What were my problems with this book? I thought the disabled sister (she suffers from cerebral palsy), Shelley, was more of a prop than an actual character. There could have been a lot of interesting dynamic to explore there, especially the mother behavior. Instead, we get a super shallow who mostly cares about shopping and appearances. I mean, WTF? Having a disabled kid changes parent in a lot of ways, some more subtle than other. I also felt Brittany was selfish in regards to Shelley, mostly disregarding the fact that her sister needed specialized care which she could get in a special care center and throwing tantrums whenever her parents mentioned that.
I also disliked how Alex, his family, gang members talked. It didn’t feel genuine throwing some Spanish words in their speech. I saw someone on Goodreads mentioning that it’s pretty usual to mix Spanish with English, but the book approach in this instance seems juvenile. I also think that most of the swear words were in Spanish which seems kind of racist.
Another problem was the gang portrayal, the fictional Latino Bloods which seemed taken from a bad gang movie. It’s like the author never researched anything about gangs. Firstly, gangs are unlikely to have teen members. They might exploit teens for various illegal stuff as driving drugs because those teens are unlikely to be charged by the federal prosecutors. You don’t want the feds to get their paws on a teen gang member, willing to make a deal. You see, gang leaders are not idiots, they are actually smart and come up with various tactics to avoid getting caught. Also, if a gang member does what Alex did, the gang will kill him, not beat him lightly. That made the ending ridiculous.
There was some stuff I liked though. The Latino wedding scene was interesting and I liked Paco (which is yet another reason to hate the ending) and Isabel who seemed like a very nice girl. The romance part was pretty much standard for this type of book and yes, there is one sex scene and one almost-sex scene. And yeah, true love in the end and we get a freaking epilogue just for the story to reach fantastical realms. And Brittany’s first boyfriend? A walking, talking cliché: jealous boyfriend who wants only sex. It could have been a good story if the characters had more depth and the gang thing was researched better. I’m not going to read the rest of the series.
Rating: 2 stars
About the author: Simone was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, where she still lives today. Simone went to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and received her Bachelor’s of Science there in Psychology in 1992. She continued her education at Loyola University-Chicago where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Relations while working for a manufacturing company creating diversity programs for their employees.
She loves animals (she has two dogs – a labradoodle and a German Shepherd), kids (she also has two of those) and her family. In her spare time she’s the Hockey Mom for her kids hockey teams and is an active Girl Scout leader specially trained in outdoor education. She also spends time mentoring other teen and adult authors. (She also loves sushi, which you can probably tell by reading her books.) Simone writes about teens because she was a teen in the 80’s (when spiked hair and blue eye shadow were “rad”) and she loves writing about those exciting teen relationships and romances.