Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: Simone Elkeles
Simone Elkeles has written several books: How to Ruin Series (How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin my Teenage Life and How to Ruin your Boyfriend's Reputation), Leaving Paradise Series (Leaving Paradise and Return to Paradise) as well as the Perfect Chemistry Series (Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction and Chain Reaction).
Rules of Attraction
Return to Paradise
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Read by Natalie October 2011
Natalie recommends as an embarrassingly poor follow-up to Perfect Chemistry
The second novel about the Fuentes brothers, this one features middle brother Carlos. Having moved to Mexico after older brother Alex left the Blood Latino gang in Chicago in the first book Perfect Chemistry, Carlos is quickly pulled into a new gang life there. Now being sent to live with Alex in Colorado, he is facing a new school, new friends and worst of all a new Alex Ė the grown up, in love, attending college Alex. Resentful at leaving his family and friends behind he isnít welcoming to his peer guide at high school, Kiara. However when drugs are found in Carlosí locker and he refuses to name who might have framed him, he is sent to live with Kiaraís family (her father is a well-respected psychologist known for helping delinquent kids) and forced to attend an afterschool REACH program for at-risk kids. Of course this completely paves the way for bad boy Carlos and good-girl Kiara to spend more time together and for a beautiful relationship to blossom, made all the more possible by the completely unbelievable scenarios where Carlos occasionally lets his guard down and reveals who he really is. I have to say this book was pretty bad. It was cringe-worthy just how peachy perfect and wholesome Kiara and her whole family were and it was complete crap to watch Carlos so quickly change his whole personality. Throw in a fake relationship between Kiara and Carlos which is essentially so Carlos can use her to get rid of another girl and this just screams demeaning and extremely bad role models for any teens choosing to read this book. And if you didnít think it could get any worse, the dialogue, particularly inner monologues were just so ridiculous I had to almost stop myself from throwing the book in disgust. In keeping with its predecessor it even had the gall to wrap it all up with an over-the-top, disgustingly cheesy epilogue, I am now certain I wonít be rushing out to pick up book 3, about baby brother Luis when it hits the shelves. Complete crap.
Leaving Paradise and Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles
Read by Natalie July 2011
Natalie recommends as not your average predictable romance
Both of these books tell the story of Caleb and Maggie. In Leaving Paradise, we are introduced to two characters who are as opposite as possible. Caleb is a good looking and popular jock, while Maggie is an average looking and shy tennis player. Maggie is best friends with Calebís twin sister Leah, but all that changes in one night when Caleb is drunk and drives home, hitting Maggie and leaving her for dead on the side of the road. As Caleb spends a year in juvie for his crime, Maggie spends a year in hospital and physical therapy. Both of them are separated from their friends, their school and from the life they knew before. Both of them emerge as freaks, people who are stared at, whether because they are a con or a cripple. While Maggie is consumed by anger at what happened to her, Caleb is determined to get his life back on track. Yet Maggieís return to school and Calebís freedom from jail doesnít turn out how either of them planned. As they struggle to fit back in and recognise that everything around them, including themselves has changed, they find an unlikely source of strength Ė each other. As they gradually learn to forgive and trust each other again, they also fall in love, a secret relationship that neither should be having and neither is quite prepared to admit is real. But life comes crashing down around them when Calebís family cannot accept and deal with whatís happened to their son and Maggie struggles with wanting to be in Paradise, the town they live in and all the stares and comments she receives. When Maggie finally discovers the truth about what really happened that night and Caleb desperately tries to deal with his own grief about the accident and the secret he is hiding, his only plan is to escape, leave Paradise behind, while Maggie is forced to stay. As their relationship, which was seemly doomed from the start, ends, Maggie finally reconnects with the friend Leah she lost.
Return to Paradise takes place nearly one year later. Once again Caleb is in trouble with the law, having been busted living in a drug house in Chicago. Still harbouring feelings for Maggie, unable to return to Paradise and not wanting to go to jail, he takes the only other option, a one month tour promoting the dangers of reckless behaviour. What he never anticipated was Maggie also being along for the ride. As the two of them reconnect for the first time in 8 months, they are forced to once again face their feelings for each other and the truth about what really happened on the night of the accident. While anger and hostility threaten to break them apart, they are also unable to hide their true feelings for each other. After four weeks of dancing around each other, they are once again forced apart when Maggie returns again to Paradise and Caleb doesnít, their fledging relationship once again doomed. But Caleb is finally tired of living with the secrets and guilt, is tired of regrets, so he returns home to face his family, his sister and Maggie. As the truth about that night is revealed, Maggie and Caleb once again fight to be together, while at the same time, rescuing their families from the fall-out of it all.
The books are told alternate POV from Caleb and Maggie and both have their own unique and individual characteristics. While each of them can run hot and cold, both in their actions and behaviour towards each other, you can see the difference as they grow from their shared experiences. There are times when the story is a little forced and some of the behaviour seems a little out of character, but it is definitely not a predictable path to love. While the books might be about decisions and consequences, I canít help but feel they are more about communication and lack thereof. If only these two could have talked to each in the first place, their road back to each other would have been a lot easier. Still they are light hearted and touching reads with some particularly hilarious characters and dialogue in the second book.
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Read by Natalie October 2010
Natalie recommends as a pretty standard plot that isn't half bad.
Perfect Chemistry is the story of Alex and Brittany. Alex is Mexican and lives on the south-side of town, while Brittany is the all-American girl living on the north-side of town. Both build up a facade of what they think people expect them to be, but when they are forced to pair up in chemistry class, they discover they each wear masks and underneath it all are more alike than they realise. This is your classic bad-boy meets good-girl story where both fall for each other and have to fight the steroetypes and racial problems that arise from them being a couple. Although the characters are 18, they don't always think for themselves, and while the target audience may be young adult, the book does have a lot of alcohol, drugs, sex and violence. I thought it was pretty good, despite a predictable ending. The chapters are told from alternating points of view and this lets you get to know both characters. They are both trying to act like one thing on the outside, to confirm to the World that is who they are, but underneath it is the pain both of them have to live with - Brittany has a terrible family life with absent and neurotic parents and a disabled sister, while Alex has a life in the gangs, forced to protect his family after his father was murdered. The author does a good job of distinguishing the characters and although the ending is predictible, she doesn't take you there in a straight forward way. The only problem I had with the book was the Epilogue, which was just too cheesy for words. A sequel, featuring the story of Alex's middle brother Carlos has been released and third book telling the story of youngest brother Luis is in the works.