At Fairfield High, where you happen to have been raised matters a great deal. If you were lucky enough to be born on the north side of town, you live in a mansion, wear designer clothes, are most likely lily-white and either cheer or play football. On the other hand, if you ended up living on the south side of town, you live hand to mouth in a cramped apartment with your family and probably one of your brothers (or sisters) has been 'jumped' into the Latino Blood gang. Worlds apart and expected to mix on a daily basis at school without consequences.
Brittany Ellis can't wait for senior year to start, she's captain of the pom-pom squad and is dating the gorgeous football captain, Colin. Everyone thinks she has the perfect life - but on the inside she's constantly stressed about her perfection-driven mother and handicapped sister.
Alex Fuentes has had to be the man of his family for a long time. He joined the Latino Blood gang to protect his mother and two younger brothers and now wields his bad-boy rep like the weapon it is. Unlike many of the other gang members, he's stayed away from drugs and works hard at school even if he knows he's never going to escape his life of violence. But he's made his choice and he's not afraid.
Neither Alex or Brittany are prepared for their chemistry teacher to assign them as year-long lab partners who are required to submit a final project together. Both expect one thing from the other person and what they get has to be the furthest possible thing from that. Lots of verbal sparring matches, pranks played, and honest emotions shared take these two to a relationship more real than anything they've ever come across in their entire life. Not to mention some truly undeniable teenage sexual tension leaving both super-confident teens completely unsure of themselves. *grin* I don't miss high school one bit...
So many aspects in this book of two cultures clashing could have gone wrong but they were handled so well, I didn't even notice. Number one on this list could have been Alex's involvement with the LB gang. This element could have come across as contrived or even comical, but to my complete surprise the LB's scared me silly. Most of the teenagers in the gang I just felt sorry for (with the one exception of Alex's ex Carmen. Carmen? That girl with her stiletto boots and long red fingernails would have had me running for the hills), but the older Original Gangsters had me seriously considering the consequences of Alex's choices.
After having recently finished Jennifer Echols' Going too Far (loved, loved), I was looking forward to the switch from good boy/bad girl to good girl/bad boy. All I can say was that it was done to perfection in Simone Elekes' Perfect Chemistry. Brittany retained her good girl shine without ever becoming annoying and Alex had so many hidden insecurities and dreams that I couldn't but help love his bad boy swagger. I know it's the cliched West Side Story plot all over again, but this time, it's totally up to date and unbelievably well written. And I do have to note, out of the many epilogues I've read - most extremely cheesy - this one was so needed and just so endearing sweet and funny, it totally rocked. I think I read it at least three times. Okay, maybe four.