Perfect Chemistry Summary

Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry

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Perfect Chemistry Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.

YA novelist Simone Elkeles published the first of her three-part trilogy, Perfect Chemistry, in 2008. This urban romance story follows two 18-year-olds as they overcome stereotypes and fall in love. The novel won praise for its humor, heart, and suspense, and became a New York Times bestseller. Elkeles was raised around Chicago, where the story is set. Perfect Chemistry won the RITA award for Young Adult Romance, the top honor within the romance genre. The novel is written in alternating first person point of view, offering the perspective of both protagonists; this structure complicates the story and contributes to its considerable suspense. The themes of Perfect Chemistry include looking beyond appearances, prejudice, being true to one’s self, and the courage required to declare an unpopular love.

The novel opens as Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class. It’s the first day of her senior year, and she’s determined to make everything perfect. She has, for all of her life, been a straight A student, and she plans to continue her academic success in her last year of high school. She’s wealthy, popular, and white; the world is her oyster. She’s also the cheerleading captain and dating the star quarterback, Colin. She seems to have the perfect life, but even her best friends don’t realize how unhappy she is. For instance, Colin routinely pressures her to have sex with him, even though she’s not ready; later, she’ll find out that Colin cheated on her. Her perfect life is further disrupted when she’s assigned to work with Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes.

Alex is a gang member (Latino Bloods) from the south side of Chicage, a part of town that Brittany resolutely avoids. Alex works out a lot and is pugnacious when it comes to protecting his family. Their first encounter is less than perfect. In the parking lot, Brittany, rushing to class, nearly crashes into Alex’s motorcycle. After a less than kind argument, they go their separate ways. Alex, meanwhile, doesn’t think much of Brittany. When his friends dare him to hit on her, he takes up their bet. But it’s not just innocent flirting they want him to partake in. They want Alex to have sex with Brittany before Thanksgiving, and to use his own bad boy image to smear the reputation that Brittany has so diligently constructed. But as Alex talks to his lab partner, he realizes that she’s more complex than he had assumed. Increasingly, Alex is drawn to the nuances of Brittany’s less than perfect family life. Brittany’s dad is emotionally absent and always away on “business.” Her old sister, Shelley, has physical and mental handicaps, including cerebral palsy, and Brittany’s mother, who is overly concerned with appearances, eventually decides to send Shelley away to a medical facility.

Meanwhile, Brittany grows more sympathetic to Alex’s life story. Alex curates an image of toughness out of necessity. His father was murdered when he was six, and he became responsible for caring for his family at a young age. He wants to leave the Latino Bloods, but his ex-girlfriend, Carmen, keeps dragging him back; she wants him to stay involved with the gangs as a way to maintain a relationship with him. Alex is torn: he does want to stay involved with the gangs because they offer protection to his family, but he has seen how involvement with the Bloods frequently backfires, and how being a Latino Blood makes it near impossible to lead an ordinary life. Alex wants to go to college, but gang life prohibits such aspirations. Both Alex and Brittany see that there’s far more to each other than the simple image they project to their peers. Brittany is more than a pretty face; Alex is more than a “tough guy.” Alex and Brittany fall for each other and Alex wins his bet: Brittany loses her virginity before Thanksgiving.

Things are great until they take their relationship  public. Brittany’s rich parents are horrified that she would date a Latino “thug.” Meanwhile, Alex, who wants to extract himself from the gang life, has angered the ringleader of the Latino Bloods, Hector. Alex’s home life is sketched out in greater detail in the two sequels to Perfect Chemistry, which follow his young brothers, Carlos (Rules of Attraction, 2010) and Luis (Chain Reaction, 2011). Alex wanted his brothers to avoid the gang life that killed their father and that continues to threaten his own life. Hector forces Alex to take on a big drug deal; if he refuses, Hector hints that terrible things will happen to his mother and brother. Brittany hears about the deal, and decides to sexually seduce Alex into not going. His best friend, Paco, goes in his place; Paco ends up murdered. Hector sends men to beat Alex up; the wounds send him to the hospital. The novel concludes with an epilogue set 23 years into the future. Alex and Brittany are married and have a son, whom they named Paco in honor of Alex’s slain friend. The final scene shows Paco in chemistry class with the same teacher his parents had. He is assigned to work with a pretty white girl, and the process of love across racial lines begins again.