Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
(Walker & Co, Paperback, 2009)
Brittany Ellis and Alex Fuentes are as different as two high schoolers can possibly be. Brittany is the captain of the cheerleading squad and Alex is part of a violent gang. When the two get thrown together as chemistry partners, the sparks fly. Perhaps Brittany is more than Miss Popular and Alex is smarter than he lets on. But Alex's gang involvement threatens any change they may have at happiness.
I have to give props to this Romeo & Juliet meets West Side Story plot line. I feel like this is popular in a lot of movies but isn't a common theme in books. (Leave me a comment if you can think of other examples.) The author builds up a lot of tension between Brittany and Alex, and not just romantic tension. Family, friends, gang members, and social status all act to build layers to the characters and complicate their growing relationship. Simone Elkeles had me convinced that Brittany and Alex were good for each other. The Spanish that was sprinkled throughout the novel threw me off a little because I don't speak Spanish. However, it did add a lot of authenticity to the story and it was easy enough to look up the Spanish words. One thing that really struck me is that there was a lot of sass to the novel. Mostly from Alex, which I found to be very funny and endearing. Although Perfect Chemistry is a bit more gritty than Stephenie Meyer's books, I would recommend this to Twilight fans because of the science lab partners bit and because of the romance.