Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: YA, Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Challenges: POC (23), YA (23)
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Summary (from the back of the book): At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren't exactly compatible elements. So when head cheerleader Brittany ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, the results are bound to be explosive. But neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reactions of all--love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart?
Review: I have heard so much about this book and I worry that there has been too much hype and that I won't enjoy the book as much since I am one of the last ones to read it. Well, I needn't have worried. I have been wanting to read this book all school year, but the students don't let it sit one day on the shelves. That's a pretty good indicator of how good it is, right?! Well, on Friday it finally came in near the end of the day and for the first time, no one had a hold on it so I snatched it up right away figuring I could read it over the weekend and have it back Monday. Who needed a weekend? I read the whole thing Saturday. I stayed up past 11:00 to finish it (you must understand that I usually am asleep around 9:00).
What is it about this book? It's a modern day Romeo and Juliet. Their love is forbidden, there's major tragedy (don't worry, I won't spoil the storyline for you), and they go against their families' wishes regarding their dating. The novel is a "good girl, bad guy fall for each other", there's drama (in this case lots of it), and it's fairly predictable. But...I really liked it! I cared about the characters, wanted them to be together and to be happy. Part of that is that Alex, the "bad boy", is bad, but he is intelligent, caring, and really likes her. He wants what is best for his family and his friends, and he does what he needs to to make all that happen. I thought the insights into gang life were really interesting (and disturbing). And Brittany. Elkeles could so easily have just made her the stupid popular blond girl, but she is also intelligent and caring. The scenes between Brittany and her older sister (who has Cerebral Palsy) are touching and give a wonderful look into Brittany beyond the facade.
The supporting characters are also good and play important roles, mirroring society's concerns and issues. Somehow the author introduces many problems, prejudices, etc without being preachy. The only negative I have about the book is the Epilogue. Too cheesy. And, not necessary, I didn't think. Other than that, I don't know what else to say...read the book. It's really good!