Sunday, January 1, 2012

YA Book review: Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Walker Childrens (August 16, 2011)

Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill. 

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.

Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

My review: As sad as I was to say bid adieu to the Fuentes brothers, the final novel of the trilogy didn't fare as well as the first two did for me. I can't put my finger on but baby brother Luis's story didn't share the same qualities which made Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction such addictive reads and it lacked that magical moment--the intense scene depicted on the covers which make this readers' heart (still) race simply thinking about them. Carlos and Kiara kissing in the rain? There go the goosebumps! Luis and Nikki in the chemistry classroom shower? Nada.

This is not to say I didn't like the story. I did. Luis is incredibly likable with his appealing combination of charm, wit and 'tude. He's a good guy with a slightly tough exterior, accustomed to getting the girls with a sweep of his long lashes. Nikki was also a good girl but her heart had been crushed by her first love, Marco, who not only scarred her heart but also her body. Life "AM" (after Marco) has her erecting stone walls to any prospects of love. While her best friend enjoys the ups and downs of a relationship, Nikki is the voice of negative reasoning. Until Luis. She meets him at Alex and Brittany's wedding and there's an unspeakable connection--an instant chemistry--between them. But she slams her blinders down and instead knees him in the privates on a packed dance floor.

Love at first kick? I'd say Louis was gone at first glance but it takes a while for both to succumb to fate. Their story is complex and touching and spans over three years. Louis and his mother leave Colorado to return home as does Alex and Brittany (she had the best line in their wedding scene!). I loved seeing Alex and Carlos back in the Fuentes household in their hometown of Chicago. Their familial alliance has always been one of their most admirable traits. They back Luis, even when he becomes a LB. The story held some surprising twists (even though I still wonder what went down with Luis' mom, but I won't spoil it) and it was so cute to see Luis interact with his nephew, Paco. Nikki was an interesting character, born to Mexican parents but raised in an affluent American town lacking a foundation in her heritage. After Marco, she refuses to get hurt. Seeing Louis in her high school years later quickly causes her memories to resurface of her immediate attraction to him. Bad boys are not for her until a certain transfer student changes her mind.

Well written and emotional, Chain Reaction concludes the Fuentes brothers saga and after numerous trials and tribulations, all three settle down with their soulmates to live happily ever after. Is there anything else to ask for?

Rating: Liked it.

Favorite excerpt: ""What happened to the boy who said he loved me?" I ask.
     "He died," he says dryly.
     "I wanted to push you away," I tell him. "It's my defense mechanism."
     "Congratulations, Nikki," he says. "You win."
     He jerks his head away from me, but I make him face me while I clean off his chin and a nasty cut on his cheek. When I move to clean the wound on his bicep, the angry letters gouged out of his skin that'll leave permanent scars stare back at me.
     He holds my wrist with his strong fingers and stills my hand, which is about to wipe off blood still oozing from the wound. "Don't help me," he says. "I need you to go.""

Cover comment: Like the other two covers, this one is great.

Book source: From library.


  1. I just thought the first two books were alright, wasn't gaga over them. If this is the worst in the bunch then I probably won't pick it up for awhile, if ever.

  2. I loved book one and book two was good but I just don't think that anything can stand up to Alex in Perfect Chemistry. I can't wait to read this one though so I can finish off the series.

    Thanks for the great review!

  3. I've been on the fence about this one, and having read this review, I'm leaning towards not finishing it. I was so in love with Carlos and Kiara's story that I don't think Luis' could live up to the rest.

  4. I have not read any of these, but your review has me curious.

    Thanks for the share!

  5. Please don't base your decision on whether or not to read this on my review. I enjoyed the story and will always be a fan of Simone Elkeles. I just didn't feel that special connection between Luis and Nikki but that doesn't mean you won't. It's still well written and has some powerful moments:)

  6. Chain Reaction is and always will be my favorite book in the series. I instantly fell in love with Luis and felt very close to Nikki. Nikki is the easiest for me to relate to. From my experience, you really can't base the books you read on what others say because everyone has their own opinion. I do agree that the picture on the cover is not the powerful moment in the book, but Chain Reaction DOES have the romance that all of the other books had. Simone Elkeles is a wonderful author and Luis Fuentes will always have a special place in my heart. <3