Perfect Chemistry was my second read by Simone Elkeles and let me say that this woman knows how to write a good story full of angst and passion between the two main characters. Although I was more intrigued by the plot line of Leaving Paradise I’d heard so many rave reviews about Elkeles’s book Perfect Chemistry that I had to check it out.
It did not disappoint but there was a lack of something throughout that made it hard for me to be another die-hard fan of this book and its characters. The overall ‘chemistry’ between Alex and Brittany is, I think what I needed to see a bit more of. They start out on totally opposing ends of the high school social spectrum. Brittany is a Barbie doll type in looks and comes across as another blonde bimbo who only cares about her looks and perfect image. In a sense this is Brittany, but only the facade she is so intent on having everyone see. She tries so hard to be the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend to her perfect boyfriend, the top cheerleader and student. In reality she wants none of the perfection she’s claimed over the years. She yearns to be real but could never imagine disappointing everyone around her in order to be herself and make mistakes. She bothered me a little bit at first, but Brittany was quick to reveal her true self, especially with Alex pushing her not to pretend, and I was able to like her a lot better. I’ve read the character who tries so hard to be perfect in books before, and honestly it’s always annoying, especially when the girl compromises her true self or a glimmer of happiness in order to make others feel okay with themselves. I’d much prefer to read about the honest, outspoken, take no prisoners type of girl who won’t let anyone stand in her way. But anyway, Alex, with his honest nature, and take-no prisoner’s type of personality is the exact thing Brittany needs in her life to set her free. He’s outspoken, brash, brutal but very sweet and endearing and Alex is the only one who can shakes Brittany out of her complacency. I liked seeing their relationship evolve throughout the story, but more than once questioned how they’d developed such story and inescapable feelings for one another when I didn’t really see the flick to the switch. Like I said, these two start out hating one another because of the images they both wear. Then, they are forced to work together on a school project and begin to see the reality beneath the images. Brittany and Alex begin to see how much they have in common and how similar they actually are. Predictably they end up falling for each other which only leads to more issues. I liked them as a couple and was rooting for their happy ending, but I didn’t see that moment clearly enough where their hate turned to like, which turned to caring, which turned to passion which turned to love. I saw everything after the caring part, but like from hate into caring was missing for me. Not sure if that makes sense but it’s the only way I could think of to explain it. With such strong and ingrained opinions of one another I needed to see that moment where the veil was lifted between these two and looking back I never really got that. Ultimately the lack of an ‘aha’ moment made me less invested in their love story, especially towards the end when Alex had to face so much in order to finally make it back to Brittany.
That was my only other issue with the story. I felt like all the heavy drama created by this forbidden affair was packed into the end of the book. As such, it felt heavy in the last few chapters and almost too syrupy sweet at the end when everything comes to an end and Brit and Alex see each other again. There are some dramatic and violent events that make up this story and they were too glossed over and went way too quickly for me towards the end to really believe that all this violence and drama was real and heartfelt. There were events that definitely needed to be expanded and reflected upon by the main characters. I thought that their happy ending came too easily.
Overall, though, this was another enjoyable read by Simone Elkeles. She is such a talented writer and can weave such an intriguing and un-putt-downable story. I was hooked by this world and never saw a dull moment. I was invested in the characters and grew to care about what happened to them. In my opinion this story was not as heartfelt as Leaving Paradise which I loved, but Perfect Chemistry was definitely a great story about the masks we all wear and those special people who get to see beneath them to the real person we keep trapped underneath. What we see on the surface isn’t always reality and this story was a great one to prove that image isn’t everything and it’s what lies beneath that counts.