Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2) by Simone Elkeles
Published April 27th 2010 by Walker Childrens (first published 2010)
Paperback, 326 pages
Literary awards: Romance Writers of America RITA Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Romance (2011), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2010)
When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn't want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado. Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn't talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.
This book was just as addictive as Perfect Chemistry. Carlos has the same sarcastic, bad boy personality as Alex did in Perfect Chemistry, which is to be expected since Alex and Carlos are brothers. Like Alex in Perfect Chemistry, Carlos believes that his destiny is set and it doesn't include college or a career. And like Alex, Carlos winds up falling for the most unlikely person.
From the beginning of the novel, Carlos is forced into a situation that is less than ideal for him. After getting into trouble in Mexico and losing his job, he’s sent to Colorado to live with Alex, who’s attending the college. From the time he gets off the plane, Carlos is determined that no matter how many rules Alex tries to enforce or how hard Alex tries to convince him that he could do better than gangs and drugs, he will never be like Alex…at least not the college student Alex who’s in a committed relationship with the rich gringo Brittany. He misses the old Alex, the gang-banger who was tough, dated around, and who listened to no one. This new Alex, Carlos feels, is a sell-out, a want-to-be gringo, who is completely whipped by Brittany. He will never allow that to happen to him.
Underneath his tough exterior, however, there is a softer side to Carlos. For example, his mother and brothers were lead to believe that he was fired from his job in Mexico due to his involvement with a local gang. In reality, he was fired because he stood up to his boss for taking advantage of a 15-year-old female employee. He may be a rebel who doesn't follow rules, but he knows injustice when he sees it. He also has a soft spot when it comes to his mom, who got pregnant and married young, lost her husband in a gang hit when Carlos was 4 and Alex was 6, and who has works multiple jobs in order to support her sons. He gives her a hard time with is rebellious ways, but deep down he wants more than anything to make enough money so she doesn't have to work so hard and to see her smile and laugh like she used to. He loves Alex as well. They may clash a lot in regards to Carlos’ future, but in the end they’re brothers and will always have each other’s back.
Kiara is a quiet, shy girl who loves hiking and cars and who never backs down from a challenge. She comes from an upper class family with a father who is a psychiatry professor at the University and a mother who owns and runs a tea shop. As the novel begins, she was “text dumped” by a guy she dated over the summer and her gay best friend Tucker (b.k.a. “Tuck”) creates the “Rules of Attraction” which lists the great things about Kiara and the things she is looking for in the perfect guy. Being her last year of high school, she has vowed to be more outspoken now that she has gotten her stuttering problem under control. Her vow is tested when she is assigned to be Carlos’ peer guide his first week at Flatiron High School. From the moment he meets her, Carlos is determined to give her such a hard time that she quits before the week is out. Little does he know, he has met his match.
As with Alex and Brittany, Carlos and Kiara are forced together and hate each other at first. Carlos feels that Kiara is not worth his time because she’s white, rich, dresses in baggy clothes and doesn't immediately fall for his charm and good looks. Kiara feels that Carlos is mean with a huge chip on his shoulder and nothing but trouble. They play a couple of pranks on each other in a means to intimidate each other. The more time they spend together, the more they find themselves thinking about each other and slowly becoming attracted to each other. As time goes on, Kiara starts to see the nicer sides of Carlos and the more she learns about him, the more she feels for him. Carlos likes that Kiara seems to handle everything he throws at her and is crafty enough to fight back.
There is some action and violence towards the end of this novel, but not as much as there was in the Perfect Chemistry. Also like Perfect Chemistry, there are some minor sexual situations, so it may not be suitable for anyone under the age of 16.
I recommend anyone who likes romantic, realistic, contemporary fiction. I will definitely be reading the last book in the series, Chain Reaction, which tells the story of the youngest Fuentes brother, Luis.