Monday, October 3, 2011

"Perfect Chemistry" Series ~ Simone Elkeles

I decided to wait until I'd read all three books in this series (which I did over the weekend) before writing my review because I wanted to see how it all ended so to speak. All of the books in the "Perfect Chemistry" series feature the three Fuentes brothers, Alex, Carlos and Luis and follows the story of their lives as they struggle with gang life in the south side of Chicago.

All three books have Epilogues and I would like to personally thank the author, Simone Elkeles for that because I LOVE me an Epilogue!

** In my opinion, if these books were rated as movies are, I would give them an "R" rating for thematic material such as gang violence, strong language, and sexual content.  The covers themselves are a little suggestive for YA books, but once you read the stories, you can see that they actually pertain to the storyline and are quite clever, still suggestive but clever. **



Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry, #1)
"Perfect Chemistry" (Book 1) - is Alex (the eldest Fuentes) and Brittany's story. He's a hot, Mexican gang banger from the south side, she's a rich, beautiful pom/cheerleader from the north side and they hate each other - or at least they're supposed too.  By all outward appearances, they both seem to fit into certain stereotypes but like most stories (and real life) they soon discover that people and appearances are not always what they seem.  Alex, is not as "bad" as the rumors make him out to be nor does he want to be but his life is no less dangerous. (OK, so maybe he's a little bad but who doesn't love a guy who rides a motorcycle, will kidnap you just teach you how to drove a stick AND play checkers with your wheelchair bound sister?) (fans face rapidly)

Brittney has more to deal with in her home life than Alex (or even her BFF) could imagine and doesn't just keep people at arms length because she's a snob but for self preservation. FYI - Not all blondes are dumb or sluts people, O-kay?

A project for their Chemistry class brings them together and they soon find out that the classroom is not the only kind of "chemistry" they have together.  The biggest problem their relationship faces is Alex's association with the LB's - The Latino Blood Gang.  He's being groomed as the next leader and even if it's not the life he would choose for himself he sees no way out. To leave, if that's even a possibility would bring serious repercussions on his family and those he loves. Brittney sees no future for she and Alex if he stays with the LB's but doesn't want to see him throw his life away.

They will have to decide if what they have is worth fighting for because it may cost them everything.



Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2) 
"Rules of Attraction" (Book 2) is Carlos' story.  He's the hot Fuentes brother with major attitude. (Is there a Spanish word for "snarky"?) Carlos finds himself living in Mexico with his mother and younger brother Luis at the end of "Perfect Chemistry" but has apparently, gotten himself into trouble there.  His mother decides to send him to Colorado to live with Alex in the hopes that he can still turn his life around but Carlos is anything but happy about it.  

On his first day of school, Carlos is assigned a peer guide named Kiara to show him around for the first week.  She is "not hot" (Carlos' words) and dresses like she could go mountain climbing at any minute.  This is irritating to Carlos because he doesn't want a babysitter and he's all about the "hot chicas", like Madison.  He soon finds out (just like Alex did) that looks can be deceiving. 

The hot chicas can be trouble in more ways than one and the ones you aren't looking at can be hiding some pretty interesting things under those big baggy T's of theirs.  Things like, how to fix cars, play an awesome prank (cookie anyone?) and how to kick your butt at soccer but the best things might be how they see right through your bull and are full of unconditional love.

While in Colorado, the Fuentes brothers discover that they still can't escape the Latino Blood Gang and in order to protect Carlos, he is sent to live with Kiara and her family. While there, he learns what real love is, the kind that has no boundaries and no limits.  He struggles with being able let his guard down enough to be loved by this family and the one girl who can help him change his life and heal his heart, maybe forever. (sigh...)

I think Kiara is my favorite of all the girls that come in and out of the Fuentes boys' lives. She may not be the most beautiful outwardly but her inner beauty shines through in her willingness to love those around her fully and without conditions.  She is strong in her weakness and despite her disability, she doesn't let it hold her back.  I also LOVE that she doesn't put up with Carlos' bull but gives it right back to him! TEAM KIARA!



Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3)
"Chain Reaction" (Book 3) is Luis' story.  He's the baby brother of the Fuentes family and has been protected from the LB's influence for most of his young life thanks to Alex and Carlos.  He's super smart and has big plans to become an Astro-Physicist for NASA and his family will do whatever they can to help him achieve that goal.  (Did I mention Luis thinks he's all that and a bag of fries?  Yeah, well, that's because he is.  He can't help it, he IS a Fuentes after all. DUH!)


When Luis and his mother move back to Fairfield so she can be closer to her grandchildren, that protection is tested.  (Did you catch that?  I said "grandchildren"  Yep, Luis is an uncle now but I won't say by which brother because that would be a spoiler and those are just no fun.)

Luis is spending his Senior Year in Fairfield, much to his chagrin until he runs into Nikki, the girl he met at his brothers wedding two years ago who didn't fall for his shameless flirtations. (Hey! there's another spoiler - sort of) He realizes this move back may not be so bad after all. Luis' downfall is that he, along with the other Fuentes men has never shied away from a challenge, especially a dangerous one.  Nikki is definitely a challenge but so are the Latino Bloods and when Luis meets back up with his childhood friend Marco whose in deep with the LB's, he finds this may be one challenge he can't handle on his own and survive.

Nikki is Mexican like the Fuentes family is but she lives on the north side of town because her father is a Doctor.  She doesn't speak Spanish and knows very little about her Mexican heritage which has never really been a problem until she meets Luis.  She begins to feel like she doesn't fit in anywhere because while she's not white (even if she's been brought up that way - or assimilated), she's not Mexican enough for her Mexican peers either.  As far as Luis is concerned, she feels an instant connection with him but has been betrayed before and can't allow herself to be sucked in again and definitely not by another gang banger.

Luis and Nikki both have secrets their keeping from each other and will be forced to make choices that will alter the rest of their lives.

I hate that there are so many stereotypes in our society but I REALLY liked that Elkeles showed positive characters like the Fuentes boys, who get out of a bad situation, break their family's cycle of crime and go on to bigger and better things.  (It didn't hurt either that they were muy caliente!)

Having seen documentaries on Latino gangs, I can't say that these books really represent what life is like for those teens and I found myself wishing is was that "simple" for real life gang bangers to get out and change their lives but I enjoyed reading these books nonetheless. The bond between the brothers is one of love and loyalty and the romances rival those of Romeo and Juliet.

*Cover Comment - Chain Reaction - I read a comment by another reader about the cover showing Luis and Nikki showering together but if you look closer, you'll notice a couple of things... 1) They're fully clothed 2) It's not a regular shower head and if you think about the title of the series and that it all started in a High School Chemistry classroom, you'll realize it's a shower almost all classrooms/labs have in case of a chemical spill. Granted, most people don't stand under them and make out after a lab accident but that's where the sauciness of this series comes in. 


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