Saturday, February 07, 2009

Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Book: Cracked Up to Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 2008

Parker Fadley was once the perfect student, the perfect cheerleading captain, the perfect girlfriend. Now she’s a perfect wreck. Her once-Honor-Roll grades have tanked, she has to see the school counselor every week, and her parents have imposed a seven-thirty curfew.

Geez, you drink an entire bottle of vodka and chase it with a container of sleeping pills one time and nobody ever lets you forget it.

Parents, administrators, ex-friends, even her ex-boyfriend--nobody knows quite how to account for this sudden nosedive, except Parker herself. And she’s not telling, because it’s all her fault. She doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. She keeps everyone at arms-length with a combination of stunning bitchiness and outrageous behavior. But now there’s a new kid at school, Jake, who’s not put off by withering sarcasm or outright disdain.

How can Parker convince him that she’s not worth his time? Because the thing is, she’s starting to doubt it herself.

A lot of people have compared this novel to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and I saw the similarities too. But Parker is a very different character. She lashes out, using words as defense in exactly the opposite way from Melinda. The only way Parker could be more self-destructive is if she were actually mid-air after jumping off a cliff. She doesn’t want to be saved. She knows she doesn’t deserve it. The terrible thing that happened is all her fault.

In spite of that, Parker is hilarious. You know she’s a mess, but she’s making you snort with glee so often that you kind of forget that.

Her perfectionism has led her to believe that she not only has to control everything, she is responsible for everything that goes wrong in her life. Now this enormous and awful thing has happened, she’s in pieces and doesn’t know how to rebuild. Summers carefully and slowly reveals the depths of Parker’s despair and simultaneously the events that led to them. It’s not what you think.

Cracked Up to Be is a wowzer of a first novel, and Parker is the kind of character that makes you forget someone had to think her up. She’s as raw and dangerous as a power line in the road, and so real you feel like it’s possible to reach into the book and slap her upside the head like you so badly want to. Good show, Courtney Summers. Keep it up.


Laura said...

Sounds great! Unfortunately, I will NEVER be able to separate it from Leap of Faith in my head, just because of the cover. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I loved this one too! Wowzer, indeed. :)

Bibliovore said...

I thought that was going to be a problem for me, Laura, because I loveloveloved Leap of Faith. But they're such incredibly different books that I forgot about the similarity in the cover art about a chapter in.