I’ve been wanting to blog about this for eons, and now that Jupiter and Neptune are in perfect alignment, I can at last discuss the trailer for Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry. It’s one of the best book trailers I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the least successful.
I know, you’re all like o_O. Let me break it down. Basically this is a music video. Featuring an original rap performed by the book’s protagonists, it’s fantastically conceived, often hilarious, and downright hum-worthy. We meet Brittany, a bouncy blond who introduces herself this way: “My daddy’s rich / My mom’s a hottie / I always look cute / Even when I’m on the potty.” Then Latino gangbanger Alex gets in on this modern-day West Side Story:
Brittany: I’m on the pom squad.
Alex: The gang is my flock.
Brittany: I have my pom-pons.
Alex: And I have my glock!
Oh, snap! The choreographed hijinks continue from there, including the entire cast grinding like the end of an episode of Strangers with Candy and plenty of sly humor (part of the refrain is Alex grunting “Es un libro, yo,” following by Brittany translating, “It’s book!”).
Does this trailer compel me to read the book? Hells yes. The problem is that I already read it. In fact, I reviewed it. And the book is nothing like this video. Oh, sure, the plot set-up is the same, but the book is not a comedy. Far from it. It’s gritty realism, and quite grueling when it comes to Alex’s gang life.
So what are we to make of this? If it brings people to the book, is it okay to hype The Road as a wacky road trip? Octavian Nothing as the misadventures of a quirky misfit? These comparisons aren’t totally fair; most of the teens who come to Perfect Chemistry expecting frothy frivolity will still enjoy the book. But it remains an interesting question that boils down the age-old problem of what-you-see vs. what-you-get. The Army doesn’t advertise marching. McDonald’s doesn’t advertise slaughterhouses. The product is not always what is sold, but that doesn’t mean you won’t eat the hell out of those McNuggets.
Verdict: Misleading. But did I mention that it’s a really, really, really good video?