Last week I attended a Booklist webinar,"Reaching Reluctant Readers: Using High-Interest Fiction to Engage and Inspire," which was sponsored by Orca Book Publishers. I was intrigued when Amy Cheney, a librarian who was on the YALSA Quick Picks Committee for 2010, said that Perfect Chemistry and its sequel Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles are hot titles for reluctant readers. Beatrice Gerrish, the Monarch High School librarian, had just mentioned that she could not keep up with the demand for these two titles, when I was there to meet with her teen book club. Having read and enjoyed Perfect Chemistry last year, I picked up Rules of Attraction and found it to be a page turner as well. However, I consider these books Chic Lit and found it hard to believe that male reluctant readers were checking them out. Beatrice confirmed that she hasn't seen any guys reading them, but online reviews suggest that the titles will appeal to male and female readers.
In Perfect Chemistry Brittany Ellis, the school's golden girl, and Alex Fuentes, a Latino Bloods gang member, are assigned as chemistry lab partners. Predictably, they clash immediately, but Alex accepts a bet that he can hook up with her, so he begins a flirtation. As they get to know each other, they are suprised to find they have a lot in common, and an undeniable attraction begins to smolder. Complications in their lives find them turning to each other for support and ultimately romance. The story is told from both characters' points of view in alternating chapters, so the reader is aware of their insecurites and yearnings. This steamy romance has some raw language and explicit sexuality that make this a high school read.
The sequel, Rules of Attraction, finds Alex and Brittany attending CU in Boulder, Colorado. When Alex's younger brother Carlos gets into trouble in Mexico, their mother sends him to live with Alex, who finds Carlos more than he can handle. Carlos, who is attending Flatirons High School, is framed for narcotics possession by a fellow student, who works for a drug lord with strong gang ties. Threatened with expulsion, Carlos is sent to live with Alex's mentor, Professor Westford and must attend an after-school program for at-risk teens. Kiara, the professor's nature loving, gear head daughter, finds herself attracted to Carlos, despite his hard headed combative behavior. They bond over a shared interest in fixing up vintage cars and his good natured attentions to her little brother. Unfortunately, the drug lord is lurking in the background, threatening the Westfords, as well as Carlos' family in Mexico, if he doesn't agree to work for him. Once again the story is told in alternating chapters, this time from Carlos and Kiara's points of view, and the romance is fairly explicit.
Although I wouldn't rule these books out for reluctant male readers, I would suggest some alternatives. Will Weaver's Motor Series will appeal to high school readers (see my August 23rd Blog) and Orca Book Publishers has an extensive collection for reluctant readers. Their Orca Currents series is for middle level readers and Orca Soundings is for teen readers. They also have an Orca Sports series, and Rapid Reads is a series for adult readers. The reading levels are between second and fifth grade, and the books are usually around 100 pages long. The plot and sentence structures are straight forward, but the subject matter is suited for the target audience. There are a variety of authors, but I have enjoyed the ones that I have read.