I like angsty teenagers. I adore romance. I dig forbidden love. I read YA well after I was in the target age range and well before Rowling and Meyer made it acceptable for adults to publicly peruse, and I've never apologized for it.
You know what I also love? Free books!
So you can imagine my dorky squeal of happiness when I received a review copy of Chain Reaction by New York Times-bestselling author and fellow Chicagoan Simone Elkeles, whom I interviewed last year. (As I have all my packages sent to work to prevent theft, our mail dudes know to ignore me when I jump up and down.)
First, a disclaimer: I don't gush about something just because it's free. Hell, I don't read something just because it's free, as my TBR pile is too big to begin with.
That said, I loved the everloving crap out of Chain Reaction.
Chain Reaction is the third in a trilogy about the Fuentes brothers (as I've learned over the past year and a half, it's a common romance novel trope to follow a family, usually a set of siblings, over several books. I really like this, as it's fun to have characters in the same universe, and a good family dynamic makes for compelling reading). After Alex (Perfect Chemistry) and Carlos (Rules of Attraction), Luis is the youngest brother and quite possibly the most intelligent. He's been mostly kept away from the gang life that almost consumed his oldest brother, but he's still an adrenaline junkie and a girl magnet. When Luis is reluctantly relocated from Boulder back to the Chicago suburbs, he falls hard for straitlaced Nikki, whom clashed with at Alex's wedding a few years back. But when Luis' family is threatened by Alex's former gang, and Nikki holds back some secrets of her own, both their love and their lives are put in grave danger.
In other words, Chain Reaction has everything I like in a YA and in a romance. A believable family who don't always get along but who truly care for one another. An interesting hero and heroine, neither of whom are TSTL (Too Stupid to Live. Thank you, Smart Bitches Trashy Books). Complicated problems that can't be solved in one chapter, and intimate scenes that bring back the fumbling adrenaline of first love. (And I know I've said this many times before, but physical intimacy - especially between teenagers - is really, really hard to write. Try it sometime.)
Also, I hate to judge a book by its cover, but how hot is that cover? Seriously.
The one small thing that bothered me was some of the Fuentes brothers' dialogue. Apparently they don't pronounce their "ing"'s, so everythin' was spelled as such. I get that Elkeles was trying to be realistic with speaking patterns, but I found it rather annoyin'.
Overall, however, the author hit it out of the park with Chain Reaction, and with the Fuentes family trilogy as a whole. As Elkeles will tell you, she had to fight for the trilogy's first book, Perfect Chemistry, even switching agents in the process. It's inspiring to see what can come out of never giving up on a good story.
Chain Reaction is out in bookstores and ebook tomorrow.