Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BOOK REVIEW & A THANK YOU: Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3) by Simone Elkeles

Title: Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry, #3)
Author: Simone Elkeles
ISBN: 978-0802720870
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Teen Romance
Theme(s): Gang, Urban, Contemporary Romance
Length: 320 pgs
Binding: Hardcover
Published: 16th August 2011; Walker Children
Buy: Amazon.com, BN.com


Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks — whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules — boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to take a chance on a south sider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

My Rating:

Wow. I can't believe that this amazing series has finally come to an end. However, the relationships that have been forged and the powerful lessons that have been learned will carry on for a lifetime. Simone Elkeles is a truly gifted author. You may hear those words all the time, but I am not just talking about her writing skills. While I'm not a deeply religious person, I do believe that we are all here for a purpose. Most people spend their whole lives trying to figure out what they were put on this earth to do. And nothing, in my opinion, is trivial. Simone is one of those rare people that not only found her niche, but utilizes it to touch others. Her writing is used not only to entertain our youth but to acknowledge and inform us on some of the grittier issues kids are dealing with every day. Some call her books controversial, but I see them as REALISTIC.

I work in the teaching field and the one thing I've figured out about myself is that I tend to connect with the students who everyone else has given up on. I have a soft place in my heart for the kind of kids that are like wounded animals. I'm talking about the ones that come from broken homes with no guidence, looking for acceptance and family in all the wrong places. The ones that look like boys on the outside but when you take one look in their eyes you realize they have seen and gone through things that even a grown person should never have to go through.

When I came across the first book in this series called Perfect Chemistry a couple of years ago, I had 2 students like this. I kept trying to find ways to break through their tough boy exteriors, to show them that someone cared. Simone Elkeles helped me accomplish this heavy task. My family, friends, and most of my colleagues already know the story and I don't want to write a book here since this is also supposed to be a review for Chain Reaction. But to give people an idea as to why I am thanking Simone, her books not only got both boys to read, but once the line of communication was opened and she felt the same connection I did with them, she decided to meet them in person. She literally changed their lives. She changed my life. The rest is history. I just couldn't go another day without putting something in writing as to how eternally grateful I am. Simone, you are my hero!

My Review: Now to Chain Reaction, the last in the Perfect Chemistry  series. I devoured the novel. It was fresh, engaging, gritty and most importantly realistic. From the language to the descriptions of gang culture, you can tell Simone did her research. Then again, I know first hand how seriously she wants to get things right, so that aspect of her writing was not a surprise.

One of the things I enjoyed about Simone's Perfect Chemistry  series is the way she weaves in different motifs. Even though each story revolves around a Fuentes brother and his struggle with gang life, Simone brilliantly gives her female characters a "problem" or "issue" that many teens go through. For example, in Perfect Chemistry, Brittany is not the shallow rich girl that everyone thinks she is. She has a dysfunctional family life that is hidden behind a big home and weathly parents. In Rules of Attraction, Kiara is not only slightly curvier than she would like (weight issues are prevalent in teens lives), but she also has a stuttering issue. In Chain Reaction, **SPOILER ALERT** Nikki must not only deal with an unplanned pregnancy at the beginning of the story and the abandonment of her baby daddy, but also suffers a miscarriage. Teens can relate to all of these issues that Simone tackles, especially in this last installment. Maybe that is why some of her books are considered controversial.

A reviewer on Amazon complained that Simone gave us the cliff notes version of Luis and Nikki's relationship, that she focused more on back story then new character development. Seriously? Did they read the same book?? The first several chapters of Chain Reaction IS character development. Simone introduces us to Nikki and Luis way before they even meet. Of course in classic Simone style, we get both of their perspectives by alternating chapters.

Chain Reaction  is the perfect blend of new and old. The last book of any series always has a lot of hype to live up to. Not only is the author responsible for wrapping things up in a way that leaves the reader satisfied, but what about previous characters? This is another reason why I love Simone! Even though Chain Reaction  is Luis and Nikki's story, Simone knows that her fans are still thinking about Alex and Brittany, Carlos and Kiara from books 1 & 2. Her fans want to know how their relationships have developed over time as well. And let's be real, this trilogy is about 3 brothers, so it just makes sense that readers would be curious about their own personal relationship as a family.

Overall, I could not come up with one thing negative, and I am not just saying that because this series holds a special place in my heart. I know first hand how seriously she takes her research in order to convey a completely authentic and relatable story-- and if you don't believe me go check out the acknowledgement page in the back of Chain Reaction :)

Simone, if you ever read this, I thank you for being the most down-to-earth, compassionate, funny, talented woman in the world! The boys and I love you and will always be your #1 fans!

best wishes,mia

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