SIMONE ELKELES has written five young adult novels: How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation, Leaving Paradise and Perfect Chemistry. She is currently working on the sequel to Perfect Chemistry and lives in Illinois, USA, with her family.
Gr 10 Up-Chain Reaction follows Perfect Chemistry (2009) and Rules of Attraction (2010, both Walker), a trilogy centered on the lives and loves of the Fuentes brothers. Luis, the youngest, is a smart, macho "adrenaline junkie" who has a way with the chicas. The story is told in alternating chapters by Luis, who opens with a rock-climbing stunt that lands him in the hospital, and by Nikki, 15, who opens intending to tell her boyfriend that she is pregnant. The importance of la familia is a thread throughout the story, and when the Fuentes family returns to Chicago's South Side, Luis finds himself drawn into the gang life that Alex and Carlos worked so hard to leave behind. Nikki, dumped by her boyfriend, has sworn off relationships, putting her energy into helping out at an animal shelter. The fast-paced story is a melodramatic roller coaster, with gangbanging, drug selling, steamy encounters in pool cabanas, and a shocking family secret revealed. The story is laced with Spanish words and phrases, four letter words, and up-front descriptions of loving teenage trysts. Derek shows some depth of character as a friend who stands up for Luis, as does Reyes, an ex-gang member turned cop. Most of the characters are clearly either good or bad, but this simplicity keeps the story moving briskly along. A no-loose-ends epilogue revisits the family 26 years later, to assure readers that all ends well. The books are best read in order and will find the strongest audience among fans of the first two installments.-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.