Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
St. Martin’s Griffin, 214 pages
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.
Perfect Parker Fadley is cracking. She comes to school with tangled hair and muddy shoes, her teachers and friends all worry about her, but the truth is, she just doesn’t care. Or, she seems not to care. All she wants to do is disappear or be ignored and forgotten (and not even the thought of Miami gift baskets can make her snap out of it), but everyone else around her is carefully watching over her. And then there’s this new guy, who seems to want to know Parker despite her insistence in him away. What’s worse is she seems to be falling for him, too. Parker Fadley is starting to crack, and she’s not sure if she can keep it together longer before anyone else finds out exactly why she’s pushing them all away.
My first Courtney Summers warned me enough to expect that her books aren’t the happy, shiny contemporary YA novels that bring warm fuzzies to the heart. Oh sure, there are some nice, romantic enough scenes to give the warm fuzzies, but the rest of the novel? They’re usually intense scenes that makes you wonder just how exactly these kids got into these situations. Cracked Up To Be had the same kind of popular mean girls that Courtney Summers seem to know so much about, and it’s an interesting journey to see just how their lives can be just as messed up as anyone else’s.
Parker feels like such an unreliable narrator that sometimes I have no idea if what she’s saying is true, or even relevant to the story. But perhaps that’s how it was really built up — her unreliability reeled me in and made me wonder just what exactly happened, just what made her change from perfect Miss Popular to someone who wouldn’t want to exist. I didn’t like her at first, until she started growing on me. Her attempts at normalcy were nice even if it seemed futile, and for a moment there, I felt I was one of her friends, who wanted to help her even if she kept on resisting. My favorite part is when she got a dog…but also, that is my least favorite part because…well, if you’ve read enough books with pets that play a big part in it, you probably know what might happen to them. :(
I remember being a bit exhausted after I finished reading my first Summers, Some Girls Are, because of the intensity of the power struggle between the popular girls in the book. However, for Cracked Up To Be, I was just a bit sad at how Parker beat herself up so much for that secret that she kept that made her crack. I liked how everything wrapped up in the end, leaving me with a bit more hope for Parker than I had at the start.
Cracked Up To Be is not a feel-good contemporary YA book, but it’s a good book that contemporary YA fans will definitely enjoy. It doesn’t have much of the warm fuzzies, but it has just the right punch that tells its readers, “Hey, this thing? In this book? It happens. It’s real. And being popular is not all it’s cracked up to be.”
My copy: Kindle version