Author: Simone Elkeles (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker BYR
Publish Date: April 27, 2010
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Personal Copy
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.
Kiara has an idyllic life in Colorado, if you don't take into account the fact that she's still trying to overcome the stutter that has plagued her since childhood. Carlos, on the other hand, couldn't have lived a rougher childhood if he tried. After his brother, Alex, was jumped out of the Latino Blood, his family sought to help Carlos create a new future for himself, as well. Carlos, however, doesn't believe that future is for him. He's a gangbanger. It's his life, and it's all he knows...plus, he knows he can't escape it even if he tries. But Kiara, try as she might to ignore it, sees something in Carlos that he might just not recognize, himself...hope.
This is definitely not the first book I've read by veteran contemporary author, Simone Elkeles, and I confidently say that it certainly won't be my last. Rules of Attraction follows in the same vein as it's companion/predecessor, offering a heartfelt story of two teens from opposite sides of the track. Blending raw tension, careful, slow-burning romance and a passionate story of trying to find one's place in the world, the novel tugs at your heartstrings from start to finish. Rules of Attraction promises to weave you into its world and break all rules, convincing you that there is redemption for us all - no matter how far gone we might think we are.
Rules of Attraction is one of those books that doesn't require you to think too deeply as you read it, but rather it inspires you to do so. Written in dual first-person perspectives and alternating chapters between Carlos and Kiara, the author manages to perfectly execute a seamless transition each time and really establish a strong character voice for both. Kiara, though outwardly timid because of her stutter, has a quiet power about her, and the only time we see that headstrong confidence waver is when she lets her guard down around Carlos. He, on the other hand, has the carefully-crafted facade about him. Carlos does his very best to keep everyone at arm's length, and readers can quickly identify that it's actually a defensive mechanism. But rather than defending himself, he's protecting others from him. Therein lies our first clue that there is hope for this outwardly crass and abrasive character. Through the story, we get to see Kiara and Carlos slowly lower their walls to one another, and the beauty is that the two have the opportunity to save each other from themselves, as well as outside influences. There is no shortage of drama in Rules of Attraction either, though it's clear that in this story, the characters, rather than the plot, actually drive the story, and I liked that a lot. I do think that, at times, I wish their chapters could have been a bit longer. I wanted to remain in Carlos and Kiara's heads a bit longer than two to three pages at a time. This did, however, move the pace of the story along faster. I also think that the climactic scenes near the end could have been fleshed out a bit more. I wanted to feel a bit more fear, rather than certainty that it was all going to end well. That said, I was actually surprised to find that I enjoyed an epilogue for a change, as well. Knowing that there was a sense of finality to this story was really nice and refreshing.
Overall, Rules of Attraction was a sweet, fast-paced and solid read. It's one of those books that doesn't necessarily force you to expand your literary horizons, but it definitely coaxes some emotion. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA and upper YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.