Can't beat the chemistry by Kat Colmer
Rhiza Edge, 2019. ISBN: 9781925563696.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. MJ is a stereotypical overachiever with a helicopter Asian parent. MJ's mother is grooming MJ to study medicine and specifically cardiac surgery. Theo is MJ's only sibling and the family rebel, having chosen his own path in life - the arts. Luke, Theo's roommate, is a deadbeat drummer failing chemistry. MJ is focused on partnering in a joint project with another overachiever - in part to perform well, but with a view to starting a romantic relationship with someone compatible.
Theo is the catalyst for bringing the two opposites together and MJ reluctantly agrees to tutor Luke. Chapters from each perspective are illustrated by either a beaker or a drum. MJ gradually manages to re-think her biased assumptions about Luke and his motives.
When MJ is apprised of Luke's world - his sister Rosie's special school, his church and not least the expansiveness of her own brother; she appreciates that there's more than one form of intelligence and questions her own need to live up to family expectations.
Will MJ follow her dreams to study genetics or strive for the pinnacle of the medical profession? Will the well-groomed Jason be the sensible boyfriend choice for MJ? How do you know you're a good kisser? Will Theo regret being true to himself?
But opposites do attract, and annoyance leads to love just like in a classic Mills and Boone plot. Modern complications refresh the formulaic romance - a jealous ex-girlfriend, an intellectually impaired sister, a gay brother, a browbeaten father.
Colmer keeps us reading, in one sitting if we could, without swearing and explicit sexual scenes, so she must be doing something right. Suitable for any gender, this is a layered romance tackling important young adult issues and values. Visit Cat Colmer's website to subscribe to her newsletter and to download the free companion story, Tickets on himself. Themes: Bildungsroman. Romance.