Friday, May 25, 2012

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Title: Cracked Up to Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: December 23, 2008
Pages: 214 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book:Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: audiobook clip | book trailer | author website

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.


A few weeks ago, I promptly swooned over Courtney Summers's novel This Is Not a Test and took it upon myself to acquire her three previous novels, and it just so happens I went from her fourth and most recent novel to her first. I can clearly see how much the author's writing ability has grown between Cracked Up to Be and This Is Not a Test, but the author's work was strong even at the beginning.

Parker cannot and should not be mistaken for a good person. She manipulates people, pushes them away whenever possible, lashes out at them to hide what she's really thinking and feeling, and she has done some terrible things. There are a lot of things Parker isn't, there's one thing she is that matters more than anything: human. Beneath all the sarcasm and sadness is a girl just like anyone else, and I connect with her on a certain level. Admittedly, the supporting and minor characters suffer and readers hardly know anything about them by the end of the novel. Parker's story is such a focus of the novel that everyone else loses out.

The length of the novel and what kind of novel it is come together to make Cracked Up to Be a quick read. It's short at 214 pages, but it's also character-driven and a little bit suspenseful as little pieces of what happened to Parker to make her go into such a steep downward spiral come to light over the course of those 214 pages. If it had been another forty or fifty pages longer, Parker's story would have suffered. The author's succinct prose keeps things short and maximize the novel's subtle power.

For the last few weeks, I've been feeling self-destructive myself. I spend far more time than is healthy thinking about how much I hate myself and wonder why I can't just wake up and feel good enough for myself like I could a few months ago. Just yesterday, a classmate of mine confessed that earlier in the year, he'd been feeling the exact same way I've been feeling, but he was getting better. I heard something snap in my head and I tore out of the classroom in tears. How did he manage to get out of that rut when no matter how hard I tried to climb out of the pit, I always manage to fall back to the very bottom? I thought.

Remember how I said earlier that I identified with Parker? My reaction to my classmate's confession might make you think this book made me break down in tears, but it didn't. Actually, I feel better than I did before I read the book, and that is exactly what I needed. Before, I felt certain Summers would become one of my favorite authors; now, she's a certified favorite author of mine.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han