(Next book in the series has been reviewed already over here.)
Brittany Ellis and Alejandro "Alex" Fuentes have a stickler of a chemistry teacher who insists on pairing up people for the year alphabetically. As you can probably guess by the names alone, it looks like a mismatch. Brittany's family sounds comfortably well off, she's a pom-pom girl, has a nice car and nice clothes, and of course she's a size four, big-boobed, blonde with blue eyes. You hate her already by my description, right? As for Alex, he's a gang member in the Latino Bloods and gets a big kick out of annoying/embarassing/torturing Brittany from the getgo. However, neither of them are the assholes that they appear to be.
Brittany's doing her best to be perfect and fit her parents' expectations of such because her older sister Shelley is severely handicapped. Brittany adores her sister, but it doesn't seem like anyone else in the family does. Her home life's not terribly good and the love her parents give her seems to be conditionally based on her perfection more than anyone else. Few people even know Brittany has a sister. And while she has an equally perfect longtime boyfriend, things have fizzled over the summer...except for the part where he's pushing her to have sex when she's not ready.
Alex doesn't like being in a gang, but he feels obligated to. His dad was in one (and got shot in front of Alex when he was six years old), and as the oldest man of the house he felt like he had to join for the protection issues. Alex can get into fights and scare the shit out of guys who owe money when he has to, but so far he's been trying to avoid getting deeper in, selling drugs, etc. Unfortunately for him, the gang's leader Hector Has Plans for making Alex do what he wants. Alex would like to have a future doing anything else, but he doesn't see a way out of this one.
It's pretty clear from the getgo that Brittany isn't a jerk--I really enjoyed the friendship she developed with Alex's childhood friend Isabel, who didn't want to be friends with Brittany but finds herself going there anyway. But Alex definitely acts pretty douchey at the beginning of the book--yes, he's the kind of guy who makes bets about sleeping with a chick (and god knows bet plots aren't usually a favorite for me). Obviously he stops being a douche, or at least evolves out of it, upon getting to know Brittany better. Both of them put on massive fronts, and aren't at all shy about taking the piss out of/pranking each other. And that leads to Twue Wuv, regardless of their respective reputations. But Alex's gang involvement gets deeper and scarier, and threatens to tear them asunder anyway. How the hell can he get out of this?
I will say that this is a hot, affectionate romance. Spanish terms of endearment will make you go "awwww" a whole lot. I also enjoyed the friendships in this book--between Brittany and Isabel, Brittany and her best friend Sierra, Alex and his best friend Paco and his new friend from jail Gary (I won't spoil that bit for ya). And I also liked how the mystery of Alex's dad's murder tied into the story. It was probably ah, rather predictable really, but it worked for me despite that. That's a certain sick level of thinking achieved there, I kind of approve.
One sad little plot nitpick: they sure don't work on that chemistry project much...you know, the one involving actual science. How the hell did anyone graduate? Just wondering. There's also a lot of "one, two, skip a few" time skips toward the end, but given the circumstances, it makes sense. I just wouldn't have minded seeing more peeks between here and there than there were.