Thursday, December 16, 2010
Title: Cracked Up to Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: December 23, 2008 by St. Martin's Griffin
(214 pages, paperback)
Summary: Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody—be totally alone—then everything will be okay...The problem is, nobody will let her.
My thoughts: Parker Fadley just wants to be left alone. She's so hell-bent on pushing everyone away, in fact, that she goes to life-threatening lengths to keep people from getting close. On my first impression, I thought Parker was some washed up, bitchy, smart-ass. But Parker made me look at her repeatedly and constantly re-evaluate her life. Summers really knew what she was doing when she put in tiny parts of the night that quite obviously changed Parker's life and repeat the beginning of it over and over again. I loved Parker at first because of her wise-ass comments and her perfectly developed attitude. Then I started hating her, because while Chris and Jake are in love with her, she only pushes them away and makes them run in circles around her. But slowly, I realized just how complex Parker was and how she wasn't a girl you love or hate; she became the reader.
Okay, that might be a little bit of an overstatement; but halfway through this short novel I started feeling Parker's emotions--or more accurately, her apathy. Chris is sweet and caring and still totally in love with her despite her flagrant disregard for him. I loved how persistent Chris was and how he knew what was going on with Parker before she even knew. Summers did a great job developing them. Jake was also great, and I was pining for them to get together, even though the direction the novel was heading in didn't really indicate they were. But that was just how Summers wrote the novel; you wanted one to happen and something totally else happened, and while you want to be upset it didn't go the way you hoped, you couldn't help but nod along and realize that's exactly where Cracked Up to Be needed to go.
The writing was amazing in this novel. It was fluid and sharp and unforgettable. The repetition added a flair that could have been easily overlooked. In fact, a lot of the greatness of this novel could be easily overlooked because of its simplicity. It was simply written but written about complex story lines that demanded more attention. I loved how Summers transformed Parker from cold and cruel without making her anything less than cold and cruel. Parker didn't change, but my view of her certainly did. And I believe that is because the writing was so real and raw.
The plot was all that much; it was basically the stages between Parker's downfall and her inevitable uprising. But I don't think Summers wanted the story of what was actually going on to matter, but the realizations and revelations Parker has to be the main focus. And the romance certainly wasn't bad. I would've liked to see more development there, but I can appreciate an open-minded ending.
Cracked Up to Be is about a high school perfectionist who is filled with grief and unforgiving of the fact that she is human. I think everyone has felt this way at some point in their lives, even if they weren't the OCD perfectionist Parker was and that made this novel wonderful to read and to think about. It had writing that made you look twice and language that made your mind work hard to connect the murky dots. The ending was great too; sometimes the resolution can't be perfect, just like the rest of life. Summers has written a poignant, thoughtful novel that anyone can relate to. It was a great read that stays with you in a haunting way, past the last uplifting page.
Cover: 5 stars
Characters: 5 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Writing: 5 stars
Overall rating: 5 stars