Book Trailer Thursday: Perfect Chemistry

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?

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About the Author:

Dan Kraus, senior editor at Booklist is the producer and director of numerous feature films, most notably the documentary Work Series, and the author of several YA novels, including Rotters and Scowler, both of which won the Odyssey Award.

3 Comments on "Book Trailer Thursday: Perfect Chemistry"

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  1. Keir says:

    Great post, Dan, and you make a great point. I think a lot of people who are hoping that their viral campaign will, ahem, go viral, have learned the lesson that you have to offer something EXTRA (i.e., not video of the author reading the book)–however, getting too creative can lead to problems. As any ad man knows, getting people to buy your product doesn’t make any sense if they end up hating it, because they’ll never buy anything else from you.

  2. heidi_willis@verizon.net' Heidi says:

    Very interesting take on this! I’ve seen the trailer (great music video) but didn’t buy the book because it seemed too… cheeky? If I’d known the book was a more serious take on the relationship, I’d have been much more apt to read it.

    I thought the feel of the trailer should match the feel of the book – just like the pitch of the book. I worked really hard to match mine. It may not be slick and funny, but I think it fits the pacing, tone and mood of the story.

    You know, movie trailers do this too. I’ve seen two different trailers for the same movie that obviously target different audiences. One made me want to see the movie – the other totally put me off. I didn’t end up seeing the movie because I didn’t know which one it really was.

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