June 29, 2010
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
As a boy, Carlos wanted nothing more than to big like his big brother, Alex, a smart, tough member of the Latino Blood. Carlos’ world flips upside down when Alex chooses to get jumped out of the gang, not for his family but for a girl. A gringa.
Carlos, his younger brother and Mama all return to Mexico where they can live in safety until Carlos too joins a gang. Alex thinks he knows the answer. Bring Carlos up to Colorado.
But ties with a gang aren’t all that easy to break and Carlos isn’t willing to leave the fast life behind, not when it means going back to school and doing homework. Still, he can have a bit of fun tormenting Kiara, the straight-A student assigned to shepherd Carlos around his new school.
For her part, Kiara gives as good as she gets and soon she has Carlos way off balance.
When Carlos is set up on a drug charge, one of the university professors steps forward to take responsibility and take him into the family’s home. Kiara’s home. Now Carlos is around her 24/7 and even when they aren’t together, he can’t seem to get her out of his mind. Still, he can’t act on his feelings — it would mean pulling her down to his world and disappointing her parents who have risked so much to help him.
This is the sequel to Perfect Chemistry and an excellent book for summer reading. Why summer reading? Because that way when you stay up late to find out what happens (ask how I’d know), you don’t have to get up early for school the next morning.
Elkeles writes with true honesty for teens. This means that they deal with things that might not be suitable for younger readers — there is “on camera” drinking and drug use and sex as well (although the act itself is off camera). This isn’t voyeuristic as all is essential to the plot and none of it is treated flippantly, but it is something you might want to know if your child is a younger advanced reader.
Elkeles characters are beautifully complex and well worth getting to know. Carlos may be a gang member but she still shows him playing action figures and soccer with Kiara’s kid brother, someone he seeks to protect. Kiara, the outdoorsy, brainiac isn’t an angel either although her pranks are nothing compared to the world Alex has come to know. Secondary characters from the Professor to Tucker, Kiara’s best friend, are just as well drawn and sure to help pull in readers looking for a great novel.