Cracked Up to Be
by Courtney Summers
published on December 23rd, 2008 by St. Martin’s Griffin
young adult | contemporary | romance
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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 conselors 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 sooner you make a mistake and learn to live with it, the better. You’re not responsible for everything. You can’t control the way things end up.
After reading so many various YA books regarding mean girls – Before I Fall and Falling into Place come to mind almost instantly – this one almost felt a bit underwhelming from a concept standpoint, even if the writing and characterization was wonderful.
Just a few weeks ago, Parker Fadley was a straight A student, the cheerleading captain, and the future Valedictorian. Now, she’s barely passing her classes and is constantly hungover. What happened to make someone so seemingly perfect turn into someone so torn apart?
Parker is not an easy protagonist to like. Frankly, she’s a selfish bitch. She distances herself from anyone who tries to help her, and makes snotty, sarcastic comments at people who are clearly trying to help her.
Yet, ironically enough, it’s also Parker who makes the book so strong. You can feel and understand how broken and traumatized she is, and her emotions and her hopelessness become your own. Even if you don’t know exactly what happened to her that made her crack and break, it’s still extremely easy to sympathize for her – even if she’s completely unlikeable.
The story’s main flaw is that there is nothing that sets it apart from other YA contemporaries with similar topics. Before I Fall had a unique Groundhog Day subplot, and Falling into Place had a mysterious narrator. Cracked Up to Be has none of those interesting subplots, and so it lacked a bit of originality in comparison to those books.
Courtney Summers clearly knows what she is doing. Her ability to get into the head of such a stereotypically mean girl while managing to make her so relatable is incredible. A solid book; I know I’m definitely going to read more of what Summers has written.
Zoe is a critical reviewer. When she’s not reviewing, you can find her performing in plays / musicals, doing gymnastics, or designing websites.