Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Published June 19, 2012 by LS Murphy

Synopsis: When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

The First Line: “Imagine four years. Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken limbs, turf wars – every day, a turf war – six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts. High school.” Okay, so this is more than the first line, but it gives such an overview of the character and her life that you can’t just stop after three little words. Immediately, I knew this was someone who had issues and had participated in one or more of the things listed. Granted the list seems to go on a bit long, but the synopsis of high school life is what matters here as much as Parker Fadley, our narrator.

The Good: This is one of the most intense books I’ve read in a long time. Right from the get go, Parker slaps you in the face with her intense wit and attitude. And she doesn’t back down until Jake comes along.

Parker does a lot of things that don’t make sense, yet in a way they do. Her relationship with Chris is one of the prime examples. It’s clear he cares deeply for her, and she acts like she doesn’t care, but she does let go either. She acts horrible to Becky who seems nice enough in the beginning. Parker does whatever she can to shoo Jake away, and he keeps coming back for more. Her reaction to relationships is a contradiction to what she shares as the narrator. Definitely one of the best characters I’ve read in a while.

The Bad: Parker is smart with a quick wit, but she tells people to “fuck off” quite a bit. The times she slams her friends with a well-placed one-liner are fabulous, so when she stoops to “fuck off,” it doesn’t fit. It felt more like language for language sake. For example, when Chris uses the phrase, it fits his character. When Parker uses it, it reads false.

Recommendation: Anyone who enjoys young adult novels should pick this up. Cracked Up to Be is smart, funny at times, and heartbreaking. Add it to your MUST READ list.

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