TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Simone Elkeles' "Chain Reaction" wraps up her "Perfect Chemistry" trilogy with a bang. It has all the steaminess and addictive readability of the first two novels, which kept me eagerly turning the pages even when, frankly, I should've known better. Although this one, too, requires a heavy dose of suspended disbelief — the Latino Blood are once more trying to poach a Fuentes brother for their gang, leading to mayhem and a violent showdown — it's still a fitting end to the series.
Our youngest Fuentes brother, who is the star here, is super smart, wannabe-astronaut Luis. When the Fuentes clan (sans Carlos, who is off in the military) returns to Fairfield, Illinois, Luis finds himself in Mrs. Peterson's chemistry class along with Nikki Cruz, the Mexican-American daughter of a wealthy local doctor. Luis and Nikki had met two years earlier at Alex's wedding to Brittany (see "Perfect Chemistry," if you're confused), at which time Nikki kneed Luis on the dance floor and stole his clothes while he was skinny dipping. Yup, she liked him, y'all. But, you know, hated him, too.
Needless to say, Luis quickly finds himself infatuated with the beautiful, guarded Nikki, while Nikki tries to see Luis as just another potential gang member / liar / felon / player, like her ex Marco. We get the usual bit of will-they-or-won't -they / do-they-or-don't-they, with the usual bit of fire and attraction that can't be denied. The difference in this novel lies in the fact that Luis is the character who is more open and receptive to falling in love, while Nikki is frightened by genuine affection. You probably don't need me to tell you where all this ends up, but the ride is a good one. Along the way, we also get some brotherly bonding as well as an incredibly implausible subplot about the Latino Blood, Luis' true heritage (apparently, the LB is his birthright), and a safe deposit box that Luis can only gain access to by accepting his role in the LB.
"Chain Reaction" is first and foremost a love story, and, like the other novels in the "Perfect Chemistry" series, it works insanely well on this level. There's plenty of tension, lots of make out scenes, moments of yearning and pain, and tender declarations of love and longing. It's good stuff! And if the forces designed to keep Luis and Nikki apart for the bulk of the novel feel a bit contrived, eh, I can live with it. The romance more than makes up for the LB nonsense. Plus, author Elkeles always provides a happy ending, which I love, and even a glimpse into our lovers' futures in her epilogue. What's not to like? 😉
"Chain Reaction" is out now, and it 's a great read for upper middle and high school girls looking for an engaging (and hot!) love story. Be sure to check out the book trailer, too, which I've attached below. Happy reading!